GRAMMAR for IELTS: Prepositions for transport
Especially in the IELTS Speaking test, it is quite likely that you will want to talk about using transport. Knowing whether you are ON or IN a form of transport is important.
For the following forms of transport we use ON:
a train; a bus; a tram; a coach; a plane; a helicopter; a bicycle; a bike; a motorbike; a scooter; a horse; a camel; a boat; a ship; a yacht; a submarine.
It is possible to use IN with some of these forms of transport if a) they have a ceiling which covers you and b) you are not describing your journey. For example: ‘We were ON the plane for nearly nine hours; it was the worst flight of my life.’ but ‘I was already IN the plane and the reception on my phone was terrible.’
For the following forms of transport we use IN:
a car; a taxi; a truck; a lorry; a balloon; a canoe.
Remember to use ON when you write or speak about ‘a journey’. For example: ‘I hate going ON long car journeys. I always feel sick.’
The structure ‘to get + preposition’ is very useful to explain entering or leaving a car, bus, train, plane etc.
When we use ON to describe our location, we can use GET ON and GET OFF.
When we use IN to describe our location, we can use GET IN/INTO and GET OUT (or GET OUT OF if we add the name of the form of transport)
They jumped into the car and drove away at top speed.
When I got off the plane, my legs felt weak.
You shouldn’t get on the bus without a ticket. If you can’t pay, the driver will ask you to get off again.
I was too scared to get into the canoe. I thought I would fall out and drown.
When you get out of the lorry, make sure you lock the door properly.
I got on the tram in the city-centre but fell asleep and didn’t get off until the driver woke me up at the terminal.
Instead of getting into your car and driving to work, get on your bike and cycle. It will make you feel better.
The train broke down so we had to get off it and get on a different one.
Is there any logic behind the use of ON and IN with forms of transport? Perhaps there is a little bit. We usually use ON with public transport and IN with private transport on the road. We often use ON for transport which flies or travels through water.
If you need to improve your grammar for the IELTS exam, then take a look at our online grammar course: Grammar for IELTS