Is A Boat In Or On The Water? (What’s The Difference?)

If you are just getting into boating or you are simply curious about the correct way to phrase things about boats then this article is for you. Often people will use these terms interchangeably but which one is actually correct?  When you think about using a boat and you are just starting to talk with your friends, the last thing you want to do is not speak correctly to your friends and to be made fun of for it. 

This leads many people to as if a boat is placed on the water or in the water. 

When a boat is moved down the boat ramp and as it enters into the water some lower part of it gets submerged in water. This is why the right preposition to utilize will be, in the water rather than on the water. However boats that are in the water actually float and sail on the water! 

Being that both terms are used to describe boats, many people want to know how exactly do you know when you use the two different phrases? Well there is a great way to understand which one to use and when. We will go over all of these terms in the article so you know how to speak in front of your friends. 

The most common usage for these two phrases is when you are talking about moving the boat from land to the water. When you are doing this, it is considered putting it in the water. When you are talking about a boat being used then the common usage is for it to be on the water. Despite the boat always being slightly in the water (unless you have a flat bottom boat) once it is moving the correct thing to say is that the boat is moving on the water.

Related Post  Why are Boat Fridges So Expensive?

Why does it matter?

Talking about grammar, using the appropriate preposition is a must for letting people know the exact location of the item you are talking about. When an apple is placed above a table the preposition considered is on, while when some sugar cubes are submerged in water, the preposition used is in. The preposition on is used when something is placed above something and the preposition in is used when something is placed within something. When we talk about a boat, the preposition used will be in. Despite the boat being raised above the water surface, some part of it is submerged in water and hence we typically use the preposition in.

As mentioned above many people will actually use on as well. While saying that the boat is sailing, we say that statement as “the boat is sailing on the water.” While depicting the phenomenon of sailing, we are mentioning the conduct of the boat. The boat isn’t held steady in one place rather it is moving from one place to another. 

This is why we will use the preposition on rather than in. The ocean is a vast area and when something is present inside it, we will use in, but when we are speaking about sailing, the boat is floating mostly above the surface of water and hence on comes into consideration. When we talk about the place where the boat is, it is most commonly used as in, but when we talk about the process in which the boat is, we use “on”. 

Depending upon the situation you can use either of the two prepositions and actually be correct. 

Proper usage with proper nouns

When you use a proper noun, while mentioning regarding a sea, the sailing process will then be depicted using the preposition “in” and not “on”. This is because the common noun “sea” is now converted into a proper noun, transforming the place into a confined geographical area. For example, the boat is sailing in the Pacific Ocean. The water is now converted into a specified region or place so the correct preposition would be “in”. 

Related Post  How Long Will a Zodiac Boat Last?

As you can see there are a couple of factors that need to be taken into consideration before making a final decision on a particular preposition. 


Submarines are watercraft that are designed to be completely immersed in water. They do not float above the sea waves but rather dive in and stay in the water. Hence, in the case of submarines, they are completely submerged inside water with no particular part of it coming out of the sea. Hence, the preposition used here will be “in”. For instance, “the submarine is present in the sea”. You can even use “inside” as a preposition instead of “in” and convert the sentence to “the submarine is placed inside the sea”. Depending upon the type of watercraft and the place where it is meant to be, decides the preposition that is supposed to be used while describing it.

What Is the Difference Between In and On?

In and on are both prepositions used to describe the place of a particular thing with respect to another thing. For example The apple is placed on the table, the apple is placed in the basket. When we talk about “on” in the first example, the table is a flat surface and cannot consume something within itself, hence the apple placed will always remain above it, hence we use the preposition “on”. When we speak regarding “in” just like in the second instance, the basket is curved in object and can soak things within itself, this is why when we place an apple it enters the basket and doesn’t remain on the top, so we use the preposition “in”.

What are the synonyms for in and on?

There are a couple of words that can be used to replace words like “in” and “on”. For “in” one can use words like inside and within. While for “on” one can use the word above. For example, instead of “the apple is placed in the basket” we can use “the apple is placed inside the basket”. Instead of “the apple is placed on the table” one can write it as “the apple is placed above the table”. Using synonyms will not change the meaning of the statement rather it adds some spice to the boring and repetitive ones.

Related Post  What are Zombie Boats?

Is it on the boat or in the boat?

Here, basically both the prepositions are correct. What makes the difference here is the size of the watercraft. When we talk pertaining to a small river boat, we use the preposition “in”. When we discuss a gigantic ship sailing on the sea, we supply the word “on”. The structure, volume and height of the watercraft makes all the difference and we need to change our preposition usage accordingly. 

A river boat is a tiny boat that has minimal height while a ship comes with multiple storages that rises its height to a certain level. The ship can be considered as a building wherein when we talk about floors, one would mention it as “I live on the 2nd floor”. While talking about a river boat we consider it as a small hut situated on the ground and mention it as “I stay in a hut.” Both prepositions have their ideal time and situation of usage, knowing these little details will support you in using the correct preposition while discussing places where things are kept.

The height of the boat plays an important role in deciding the preposition that is supposed to be used to specify the place where a person is present on it. For large and heavy watercrafts, we use “in” as the person is basically protected by being completely consumed by the ship. In the case of lifeboats or small river boats though, we use the preposition “on”.

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

Recent Posts