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Sit In a Chair or Sit on a Chair

Is it sit on a chair or sit in a chair?

Even though there are a lot of words in the English dictionary, only a handful of prepositions include the words ON and IN. In the case of this “sit IN a chair” or “sit ON a chair” dilemma, both usages of the prepositions are correct. What matters is when you would use either of the prepositions.

We will explain two ways to look at this in detail in the following paragraphs.

What Kind of Chair Are You Talking About?

The first factor for correctly using the phrase depends on what kind of chair you are talking about. There are many different kinds of chairs available in the market. Some are more closed around the sides, while others are open.

If you are sitting in a chair that does not enclose itself on you, like a simple office chair, a dining table chair, or even a stool, you would usually use the “sit ON a chair” phrase. On the other hand, for chairs that have enclosed sides like a single sofa or an armrest, you would use the phrase, “sit IN a chair.”

An easy way to remember this rule of using the correct preposition is to think of it as this- we usually use the preposition IN for comfortable and cozy chairs, like a sofa or a beanbag, and we use ON for chairs that have no arms or backrest. The preposition ON is for chairs that are not considered comfortable or cozy.

What Is The Intent of The Speaker?

In this situation, what the speaker has in mind when telling the person to sit carries more meaning. In most cases, you will find that when a speaker asks you to SIT ON A CHAIR, it means for a brief moment and in a place that is not comfortable, like a stool or a bench.

But if you are asked to sit in a chair, it might be a comfortable sofa with an armrest. In this sense, you ask the person to make themselves comfortable while sitting IN the chair.

However, in some exceptional scenarios, perhaps, the speaker only has access to a bench or stool. Still, if he or she wants the person to feel as comfortable as they want to be, then they might ask them or her to sit IN the chair, even if it is a bar stool or a hardwood bench with no back or armrests.

Therefore, the speaker’s intention when using the phrase is also a huge factor that plays a role in whether the preposition IN or ON is correct for the situation.

Example of SIT IN A CHAIR in a sentence

  • You can sit in a chair and read a book while i make us some tea.
  • Would you like to sit in a chair and relax when i get ready?

Example of SIT ON A CHAIR in a sentence

  • My cat sits on a chair and basks in the morning sun.
  • Everyone should sit on a chair and remain quiet while we wait for the teacher to arrive.

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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