‘On The List' or 'In The List': Which is Correct?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on November 21, 2023

If you need to know whether 'on the list' or 'in the list' is correct, read this guide!

If you are in a hurry, here is a quick answer: 

  • 'On the list' is a grammatically correct phrase. 
  • 'In the list' is grammatically incorrect, so you should avoid using it. 

The brief overview above answers the question of which of these phrases is correct. However, it does not tell you why. So, keep reading to learn more.

Which is Correct, 'On The List' or 'In The List?'

Between 'on the list' and 'in the list,' only one is grammatically correct. 'In the list' is incorrect. So, you should always use 'on the list' when you are asking if a list includes something.

Definition of 'On the List': What Does 'On The List' Mean?

Let's look at the definitions of the words in 'on the list' to gain a clearer understanding of the meaning of the term.

Definition of 'On'

In the phrase, 'on' is a preposition that, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as:

  • A function word to show that something has active involvement in a state or condition
  • Used to show the position or location of something
  • A function word used to show the relationship or position of something supported by the top surface of something else
  • A function word used to show the position of something is in contact with the outer surface of something
  • Used as a function word to indicate the position of something in proximity to another
  • Used as a function word to show a source of dependence
  • Used as a function word to show that something was in the possession of a person or thing
  • A function word used to show how something is done
  • A function word to show involvement or participation
  • A function word to indicate inclusion
  • Used as a function word to indicate participation or involvement
  • A function word used to show a cause or source
  • Used as a function word to show basis, ground, or reason
  • Used as a function word to indicate an object of collision or a hostile action
  • Concerning

Definition of 'The'

'The' is a definite article that means:

  • A function word used before a commodity or an everyday item to indicate a relationship to the supply, thing, or part

It can also be:

  • A function word used to show that a following noun is definite
  • Used as a function word to reference an entire group
  • Used as a function word to indicate a trait or notorious activity
  • A function word used to limit the application of a noun to a specific adjective or an attributive noun
  • Used as a function word to show that a noun is unique or a member of a particular class

Definition of 'List'

The same dictionary defines the noun 'list' as:

  •  A series of numerals or words
  • A roll or official roster
  • A checklist or catalog
  • The total number to be included or considered

Meaning of The Term

As you can see from the definitions of the words in the phrase 'on the list,' it means a list includes something. So, if you ask someone, 'Am I on the list?' you are asking them if you are included in a text that lists people.

A list can be any collection of words, numbers, people, places, events, tasks, or things.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'On The List'

Now, let's look at the pronunciation of 'on the list.' Learning the pronunciation of the term will help to give you the confidence you need to use the term in conversation or public communications.

So, here is a pronunciation guide you can follow. 

än thē list

Usage and Grammar Tips

You learned that the second phrase is correct, as well as the definition and pronunciation of the term. However, knowing the meaning and understanding how to use a term are different.

So, here are some tips to help you learn how to apply the phrase.

  • Use 'on the list' to say that something is included on a list.

As an example, you can say:

Am I on the list for the event this evening?

  • Use 'on the list' to reference the things on a list.

For example, you could say:

On the list, you will find several woman-owned businesses. 

Sample Sentences Using 'On The List'

Now, read these sample sentences using 'on the list' to ensure that you understand how to use the phrase in different contexts.

On The List

  • If you are on the list, security will let you enter the event.
  • I just checked, and you are not on the list. So, I apologize, I cannot admit you.
  • The magazine included her on the list of the most beautiful women in the country.
  • If you are not on the list, you can purchase tickets, but they are $150 each.
  • On the list, you will find current stock and prices for all of our suppliers.
  • We do not know what is on the list, but we will look at it as soon as it is published.
  • Did you find your name on the list for the winter play? I think you got the main part.
  • On the list, you will find many options you can choose.

Recap: Is 'On The List' or 'In The List' Correct?

Finally, let's review what you learned about whether 'on the list' or 'in the list' is correct:

  • 'In the list' is grammatically incorrect. So, you should avoid using it.
  • 'On the list' is the grammatically correct version of the phrase. 

These are just two of hundreds of commonly misused English phrases. If you are learning English as a second language or want to improve your writing and communication, check out some of the other guides here before you go.

Each post in the confusing words section here is packed with valuable information, like definitions, grammar rules, pronunciations, and usage tips. So, they are an excellent way to expand your vocabulary while learning essential grammar rules.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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