After the discovery of soccer in England in the 18th century, it quickly spread to other parts of the world. Today, many of the countries where soccer is played either don’t speak English or only speak the language as a second, third, or fourth language.
So, when soccer players from other parts of the world move to play soccer in an English-speaking country, there is usually that confusion about whether to say in the field or on the field.
A similar controversy is when we are asked whether the word ‘soccer’ is a noun or a verb and whether the word ‘soccer’ should be capitalized or not.
Well, even in English-speaking countries, the two different expressions can mean two different things—and neither of them is necessarily wrong. What is the grammatical law stance on this? Read on to find out.
Is it in the soccer field or on the soccer field?
‘In’ and ‘on’ are prepositions that show the location of a noun. Unlike a verb that has rules on when to use a singular or plural verb, a preposition often does not have rules since it only points the user to imagine the position of the noun.
Therefore, saying ‘in the field’ or ‘on the field’ can be correct depending on the situation. A lot of analysts have tried to explain the right preposition to use for a soccer field and here is what we think.
Use ‘in’ for an unbounded field and ‘on’ for a bound field
The preposition ‘in’ is used when talking about a large unbound area while ‘on’ is used for a bound area. That is why you will say the soldiers are ‘in’ a field and the soccer players are on a field.
In the first example, it is easy to see that the area that the soldiers can cover is limitless while in the second example it is obvious that the soccer players are restricted to a defined area.
Use ‘in’ when the field has a named vegetation
When referring to a field with named vegetation in it, the right preposition to use would be ‘in’ not ‘on’. The difference is that in this case, the position of the object is not in relation to the unbound field but in relation to the vegetation on the field.
For example, you cannot say the soccer players are on a rice field or the soldiers are on a rice field (actually you can say this but the meaning will be different). The right thing to say here is that the soccer players or the soldiers are in a rice field.
The use of ‘in’ shows that the soccer players or soldiers are surrounded by the rice plantation. In fact, whenever the field is qualified using a noun, ‘in’ will be the right preposition to use for it.
Use ‘on’ for sports except for baseball
When in doubt, our simple solution is for you to use ‘on’ whenever you are talking about a soccer player (or any other athlete) and the field. The only exception to this is when you are talking about baseball.
For example, you say the and not ‘on’ the outfield. Likewise, when you are talking about work and field, ‘in’ should be the right word. For example, I work in a computer field or my field of work is in data analytics.
When ‘in’ is used as a preposition to describe soccer players and the field, the focus is usually on the surrounding, particularly the boundary. However, when ‘on’ is used, the focus is shifted to the playing surface.
Generally, prepositions are hard to teach or learn. Usage is only wrong or right depending on intent and point of view. For example, when you say the soccer players are on a rice field, people will usually imagine a stadium where the carpet grass is substituted with rice.
However, when you say the soccer players are in a rice field, the listener will imagine the soccer players took the ball out of the stadium and decided to play on an open rice farm.
Inasmuch as there is often no right or wrong when it comes to the use of ‘in’ or ‘on’, the one you choose will guide your reader or listener’s thoughts. Therefore, make sure that you are guiding your readers or listeners properly to avoid being misunderstood.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!