Here’s a lesson about English fluency you won’t learn in school.
Fluency means how well you can communicate using what you know.
It means being able to speak smoothly and correctly, without hesitating or translating.
Fluency does NOT mean knowing a lot of words.
And this is why children who are only a few years old can speak more fluently than many
adult English learners who have much larger vocabularies.
So how do you get fluent?
By spending more time reviewing FEWER words!
I know it’s fun to learn new words, because most of us get bored of reviewing the same
thing again and again.
But if you learn the right way, you can develop a great understanding of English, and very
strong fluency, even with a very limited vocabulary.
Let me show you how with the prepositions in and on.
I’ll go from beginning uses to more advanced, so you see how valuable this kind of learning
really can be.
You probably know in means inside and on means on top of that thing.
These are basic uses of these words that you can learn visually.
Someone’s in the room.
Someone’s on a bike.
But you’ll notice that natives will often use both of these, even with slightly different
meanings, in the same situation.
Understanding THESE differences is what helps you think and communicate more like a native.
Watch as this training develops your fluency, even with a limited vocabulary.
The marker is on my hand.
The marker is in my hand.
Really, I could say either, though the meaning would be slightly different.
But native listeners understand what I’m talking about.
I can also sit on a chair, or sit in a chair.
If I say “on,” I really mean I’m on the flat surface of the chair.
If I say “in,” I’m talking about being “inside” the 3D space provided by the
seat, back and armrests.
Now, what about a bed?
If I’m “on” a bed, I’m probably sitting on top of the covers.
But while I’m “in” bed, I’m probably under the covers.
See how there’s this idea of being on top of or inside something?
Here’s another example: What’s the difference between being on time
and being in time?
Conversationally, they mean basically the same thing.
But if you think like a native, you understand the simple difference between these two expressions.
If you imagine a span of time you get to take a test, like from 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock,
then you are inside this time period if you finish the test IN time.
Think of in as WITHIN time, like within a time period.
I finished within time.
I finished in time.
But when we’re talking about being ON time for something, this is usually at the start
of something, or at a certain moment.
The meeting started at 7 o’clock, and I was there at 6:59.
So I was on time for the meeting, meaning I was arriving about when the meeting started.
Of course, you will also hear natives say they were IN time for the same situation.
But what they mean is they were INSIDE the SHORT SPAN of time from a bit before the meeting
to when the meeting started.
If you arrive to a 3 o’clock meeting at 1 o’clock, you wouldn’t really say you’re
in time for the meeting.
You’d just say you’re EARLY for the meeting because it’s not really very close to when
the meeting actually starts.
Again, the point isn’t to use one or the other, because natives will use BOTH in the
The point is to understand what ON and IN really mean so you can use them like natives
If you’re getting this, and you’re feeling more confident about using these words, be
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Finally, here’s another even more advanced example.
Ever heard of the expressions to work on a business or to work in a business?
Let me know in the comments if you have.
Most learners know to work on something.
This is a phrasal verb meaning to build, design, create, learn, study or improve something,
like a project or a paper you’re writing for school.
I’m working on a book means I’m writing a book.
She’s working on her tan at the beach.
But what’s it mean when someone says a business owner is working IN their business rather
than ON it?
Well, working IN a business means to be doing the physical work.
An owner of an ice cream shop who makes and serves the ice cream is working IN their business.
But if that same person is building systems for other employees to make and serve the
ice cream, the person is working ON their business.
See the difference?
It’s the same idea as a project or paper, but you’re thinking about the “big picture”
of the business and its future, rather than the day-to-day work.
Wasn’t that cool?
See how you really CAN spend time studying the same thing, but DEEPLY to really develop
your speaking confidence and fluency?
Do you now feel more confident about USING these words in your everyday conversations?
Let me know what you thought of the video, and if you’d like to see more these kinds
of lessons, in the comments below.
Also, write some sentences and practice using these different examples of in and on.
I’m Drew Badger, the founder of EnglishAnyone.com, and thanks so much for joining me in this
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