'Sit in a Chair' or 'Sit on a Chair': Which is Correct?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 10, 2022

Is it ‘sit in a chair’ or ‘sit on a chair’? Knowing which phrase to use can be confusing, especially if you’re learning English for the first time (or you’re brushing up on it). We’ll cover that and dive headfirst into prepositions. Then, you’ll learn how to use the correct phrase in a sentence.

The answer is that ‘sit in a chair’ and ‘sit on a chair’ are both correct. The way you use them may depend on the context. 

Which is Correct: ‘Sit on a Chair’ or ‘Sit in a Chair’?

As you just learned, both phrases are grammatical to say or use in your writing. It’s similar to phrases like ‘in summer/in the summer,’ and ‘relate to/relate with’ and unlike phrases like ‘at the weekend/on the weekend,’ and ‘play by ear/play by year,’ where only one of the phrases is correct.

Definition and Meaning

Let’s break down the phrase and define the words before talking about the meaning of the phrase.

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘sit’ is “to rest on the buttocks or haunches,” “to occupy a place as a member of an official body,” “to hold a session: be in session for official business,” “to cover eggs for hatching: brood,” “to take a position for having one’s portrait painted or for being photographed, “ “to serve as a model,” “to have one’s dwelling place: dwell,” and “to lie or hang relative to a wearer.”

It’s also defined as “to affect one with or as if with weight,” “lie, rest,” “to have a location,” “to remain inactive or quiescent,” “to take an examination,” “babysit,” “to please or agree with one, “to cause to be seated: place on or in a seat,” “to sit on (eggs),” “to keep one’s seat on,” “to provide seats or seating room for,” “the manner in which a garment fits,” and “an act or period of sitting.”

The definition of ‘chair’ is “a seat typically having four legs and a back for one person,” “an official seat or a seat of authority, state, or dignity,” “an office or position of authority or dignity,” “professorship,” “chairperson,” “a position of employment usually of one occupying a chair or desk,” “any of various devices that hold up or support,” “a sedan chair.”

It’s also defined as “to preside as chairperson of” and “to install in office.”

So, what does the phrase mean in its entirety?

It refers to someone taking a seat in a chair.

Understanding Prepositions

The phrases ‘sit in a chair’ and ‘sit on a chair’ are both considered prepositional phrases.

A preposition is a word or phrase that comes before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, location, or spatial relationships to or to introduce an object.

Some examples of prepositional words and phrases include:

How to Use Both Phrases in a Sentence

 Using prepositions can be difficult for some non-native English speakers. But with some examples and a little bit of guidance, you can do it too.

Take a look at some examples of how to use ‘sit in a chair’ in a sentence correctly:

  • She went to go sit in a chair because her back was hurting.
  • When we go to school, we have to sit in a chair at our desks.

Now, let’s see some examples of how to use ‘sit on a chair’ in a sentence correctly:

  • Go sit on a chair over there; you’ve got five minutes of time out.
  • Sit on a chair; take a break.

As you can see, there’s no real difference in how you use the terms. As always, make sure your subject agrees with your verb.

Final Thoughts on ‘Sit in a Chair’ and ‘Sit on a Chair’ 

Now that you’ve learned that ‘sit in a chair’ is virtually the same as ‘sit on a chair,’ you should have no issue using either in a sentence.

While this phrase is on the easier end of the spectrum when it comes to prepositional phrases, you might struggle with others.

If so, just pop back here and browse our library of articles dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases in English.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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