“On The List” or “In The List” – Correct Preposition

Is it correct to say that something is “on a list”? Or should you say something is “in a list”? Is there any difference? This article will answer all of those questions, and will clarify the contexts in which there could be any sort of difference between the two expressions.

Is It “On The List” Or “In The List”?

You can use either “on the list” or “in the list” interchangeably. Both prepositions work to convey the idea that something is contained within a list, whether that list is written on paper or existing digitally. There is little difference between them.

on the list or in the list

“On” and “In” are prepositions with different meanings. “On” refers to something on a surface, generally, while “In” refers to something that is contained inside of something else.

With the idea of a list specifically, both prepositions apply for the intended expression. They can both be used to talk about a list.

When Should I Use “On The List”?

“On the list” is an expression that can be used when explaining that something is represented on a list. It can be used basically interchangeably with “In the list”.

A list is generally written on some kind of surface, such as paper, or a screen. Therefore, it is appropriate to say that a given thing is “on the list” or “on a list”.

Here are some examples of the phrase “on the list”:

  1. I went to the party but my name was not on the list.
  2. While planning her wedding, she noticed several new items on the list.
  3. On my list there were several names we did not recognize at all.
  4. He wrote his name on the list and placed his signature on it.
  5. I tried to get the sneakers, but I was put on the waiting list.
  6. She’s not on my list of candidates.
  7. The detective wrote down the evidence on the list.
  8. John considered all of the suspects on the list.
  9. All of these albums are on the list for the decade’s best.
  10. Looking on the list, I saw nothing out of place.

When Should I Use “In The List”?

“In the list” is used to refer to something that is contained within a specific list. It can be used to reference any particular list, and may be freely interchangeable with the phrase “on the list”.

As a document, a list has a start and an end. Anything that is between those can be considered “inside” the list, and therefore the preposition “in” can be perfectly used to talk about a list.

The following sentences showcase uses of “In the list”:

  1. Her name was before everything else in the list.
  2. In my list I could see all of the candidates we had interviewed.
  3. I went to the realtor’s office and saw my house in the list.
  4. In the list was a detailed description of all the items of furniture that made up my home.
  5. This particular device was the most important of all the gadgets in my list.
  6. In the list, I could see all of our names.
  7. For my perfect attendance I got put on the list of dedicated people.
  8. Dave ruled out anyone else who wasn’t already in the list.
  9. In the list there were several fake passports and all kinds of currencies.
  10. After the exam ended, I saw your name in the list.

Are “On The List” And “In The List” Interchangeable?

Yes, “on the list” and “in the list” are interchangeable. There are contexts in which it is preferable to say one over the other, but broadly speaking they can be freely interchanged with little issue.

Because of the way that the prepositions work, “in” is more likely to make sense with a context that implies a group in which the subject is included.

Similarly, “on” makes more sense when talking about a surface. However, many native speakers use both interchangeably, albeit “on the list” is more common.

Is “On The List” Or “In The List” Used The Most?

According to data from Google Ngram Viewer, “on the list” is used more often than “in the list”.

on the list or in the list english usage

However, this hasn’t always been the case. The information compiled by Google suggests that “in the list” was actually the more common option of the two, from the 1800s until the mid-1970s.

This changed for some reason, and ever since “on the list” has seen more popular use. However, the data points out that “in the list” still sees plenty of use.

This points to the fact that they are generally interchangeable expressions, as both have seen plenty of use over the years and continue to do so, even if one gets more use than the other.

Is It Ever Correct To Use “At The List”?

No, it’s not correct to use “at the list” in any context. “On the list” or “In the list” are the preferred expressions when referencing something that is in a given list.

“At” is a preposition that implies location, and a list is usually an object as opposed to a place. Therefore, “At the list” cannot be an expression that makes sense grammatically.

Is It “On The Checklist” Or “In The Checklist”?

Both “On the checklist” and “In the checklist” can be used. “On” can imply that the checklist is a physical object, but is generally interchangeable with “In the checklist” anyway. Either can be utilized to express the same idea.

  • I wrote down everything we need to do on the checklist.
  • You should check if your name is in the checklist.

Is It “On My Contact List” Or “In My Contact List”?

“On my contact list” and “In my contact list” can both be utilized to convey the same idea of something being represented in a list. They’re interchangeable with each other, as both the “On” and “In” prepositions can be used.

  • I checked on my contact list but I did not have your number saved.
  • If you allow me, I will save your contact in my contact list.