English as a Second Language/in, on


Hello Brian,

Why do we say "I live ON a ranch" but "I'm IN my garden"?
What are the rules for using IN and ON.

Thank you.

Hi Camelia!

Good question!  That's a pretty tough one.

Generally, "in" refers to a location which is indoors or inside, enclosed by clear boundaries like walls, ceilings and floors.  On refers to the surface of a thing or place.  However, these cases are a bit special.

In/On also indicate how defined the boundaries of a location are.  In the case of a garden or, as another example, a park, the lines that separate a garden from the area around it are usually clearly defined, they are distinct.  A ranch or, as another example, a beach on the other hand are generally expansive, and where the ranch/beach "ends" and the area around it - which is not a ranch/beach - "begins" is not as clear.

I hope that helps!

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Brian Connelly


I can answer pretty much any question a student might have about English; about grammar, vocabulary, meanings of words, phrases, expressions or idioms, pronunciation, etc. I can answer questions about how to learn or study English better, how to improve certain aspects of communication (listening, writing, speaking, etc), about why we have certain rules.


I've been teaching English in Japan, mainly as a private (one-to-one) teacher, but also at companies such as Universal Studios or international airports. I have taught professional interpreters and translators and I have also taught students who dropped out of high school and never learned any English. Several years ago I acquired the CELTA and I have been running my own classroom for the past year.

None in particular, but I work with a number of companies who regularly introduce me to new students and occasionally to other companies that are looking for English teachers.


Past/Present Clients
I currently have approximately 40 individual students with whom I work one on one. I have also worked with local manufacturing companies, colleges, local retailers, as well as Sharp, Universal Studios, Itami International Airport, Kobe International Airport

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