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IN or ON the bed?

Hi, I have a question.

When do you use ON the bed? And when do you use IN the bed? What's the difference between both phrases?

Do we say "I sleep IN my bed" but "I sit ON my bed?" Are they interchangeable?

Thanks in advance!

Damian in Edinburgh Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:51 pm GMT

I suppose it depends whether or not you are lying under the duvet or lying on top of it (or what ever covers you have on your bed). Under it and you are in bed. On top of it and you are lying on your bed.

It's unlikely that you will ever sit under your duvet (unless you sit on the edge of your bed with your duvet wrapped around your shoulders or over your lap and your legs - unless you are a wee bit strange. So it will always be a case of sitting ON your bed, and never in it. unless, of course, you are a wee bit strange.

As for going to bed. I think we all say "I'm going to bed now". Here in the UK we say the same about "going to hospital". What puzzles me is why Americans never say "I'm going to the bed" when they say "I'm going to the hospital" - unless of course there's something I don't know.

Skippy Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:19 pm GMT

If you're under the covers you're IN bed but if you're on top of the covers you're ON the bed.

You can lie in bed or on the bed.


And, if I'm not mistaken, "going to the hospital" is more conservative phraseology. I don't really know.

Dave Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:33 pm GMT

hmm. If you get "man-flu" and your girlfriend to covers you in a blanket are you on the couch or in the couch.

Isla Dogs-Chav Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:39 pm GMT

You're bleedin lucky Dave thats what you are. It just don't 'appen. Mind you, my trouble did try to cover my boat wiv a pillow the last time I got flu.

Guest Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:54 pm GMT

I hate that small beds that make your feet be in the air.

guest Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:01 pm GMT

< >>

Sometimes they are interchangeable, in some cases, but not all.

Actually, when you're "in bed", you *are* literally 'on the bed' (i.e. on top of it), even when under covers. So in this case, they are interchangeable from a literal standpoint, so I can understand you're confusion.

"In bed" is one of those phrases in English that are somewhat set in stone and solidified to mean other things (figurative)--it has lost some of it's literal/original meaning. For instance, "in bed" can mean simply "asleep". "In bed" however applies mostly to people/animate objects that sleep. If you had a book, and it was on the bed, you wouldn't say the book was "in [the] bed", but "on the bed" even if the book were under the covers.

Usually though for people, as the other posters have explained, "in bed" means "inside the bedding-environment" (under the covers), and on the bed is on top of it.

guest Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:13 pm GMT

correction.
<> that should read "your confusion"