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Prepositions: Using "On" for Places, by Dennis Oliver

Prepositions #5:
Using On for Places


The preposition on is often used in place phrases.
In general, on means "on the top of" or "on the
surface of" the place. For streets, on refers to
a location that is alongside the street.

Examples--surface / topside:

What's the cat doing on the table?

Please write your name on this paper.

Be careful! There's ice on the sidewalk!

Many large passenger boats used to travel
on the Mississippi River.

Oh, no! There's a coffee stain on my tie!

His classes are not on the university campus.

Walk on the sidewalk, not on the grass.

He's always dreamed of having a house
on the beach.

There are two rocking chairs on Mr. Weems'
front porch.

Examples--on for streets:

He lives on 79th Avenue, doesn't he?

There are many expensive shops on Rodeo Drive.

It's less dangerous to walk on the street than
in the street.

To get to Mischa's house, turn left on the first
street after the traffic light and go two blocks.


Special Notes:


Do not use in with exact addresses
(addresses that have house numbers or
building numbers):

wrong: *He lives on 4732 Marshall Drive.

wrong: *Alice's office is on 26515
Main Street.


Do not use on for general locations
that have boundaries:

wrong: *Dave lives on California.

wrong: *The zoo is on the city park.


For streets, in the street is where people
drive, but on the street is alongside
the street on either side:

People ride bicycles on the street,
not in it.

He parked his car on Mill Avenue.

Children shouldn't play in the street,
even when there isn't much traffic.


When it is clear that a street's surface,
not its sides, is being referred to, use on:

Traffic was very heavy on the freeway
this morning.

Did you hear about the accident on
Riverside Boulevard?


The fixed expression on the road
means "traveling":

I need to be on the road by 7:00 AM.

I know Mr. White is making a tour
of the company's West Coast offices.
How long will he be on the road?


The fixed expression on the way
(to ___) and on one's way (to ___)
means "en route (to ___)" or "while
traveling (to ___ "):

I saw Leila while I was on the way
to work. (I was traveling to work
when I saw her.)

I'll be happy to pick you up. Your
house is on my way to the office.
(I pass or go near your house as
I travel to the office.)


The fixed expression be on one's
way means "leave":

I'll be on my way in about ten
minutes. I should arrive at your
house around 4:15.

Oh, no! Look at the time!
We need to be on our way!

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