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Originally posted by rouofhk at 2008-3-15 03:47 PM
Thanks for the thoughtful work.
Unfortunately English is not as perfectly logical as I imagine Chinese to be.
We could probably develop a Venn diagram for showing where you say "in the street" and where you say "on the street" and where you can use either.
Occasionally there's a fixed phrase such as "dancing in the streets": They will be dancing in the streets if he's elected president. That might be because, generally, if you "dance on" something, usually you're doing that on the surface or top of something—here, again, the meaning is more like you're in the "street" part of the street, as opposed to the sidewalk or the side, so it's a special or unusual occasion, not that you're dancing on the surface of the street.
Again, I think, on the streets has. in some instances, a slightly more abstract meaning of "out in public, in the neighborhoods, the public common areas" and in the streets has, in some instances, a more concrete meaning of in the actual streets. But, again, the distinction, if it exists at all (I might have imagined it), is slight.
And, to complicate matters further, there are sometimes regional differences with regard to these prepositions. New Yorkers will insist that people wait on line, while nearly everyone else says people wait in line. ("In line" to New Yorkers means the shape or configuration of how people are standing while they wait "on line.")