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The usual expressions in English are "be in bed" or "stay in bed." These expressions appear without an article – such as "the" – or other determiner, such as the possessive "my."

This omission of the article or determiner with certain common nouns is also seen in expressions like "in/ at school," "in/at college," "in/at church," and "at home." The expressions describe a general situation at a general place. To describe something happening at a particular school or in a particular building, you might say: "in my school," "at the school," "at a good college," "in the ancient church," or "at/ in their lovely home."

The same is true of "in bed." That states the general place and describes the situation: a person is lying down on a piece of furniture called a bed. "In bed" means that the person is there for a while, and probably has a sheet and perhaps a blanket, too, over him or her. You can modify "in bed" in the same way that you modify "in school": you could say "in her bed," "in my bed," "in a soft bed," etc. But the usual words to express place and activity are just "in bed":

She's sick in bed.
Bob stays in bed until noon on Sundays.
Harriet has been in bed with a cold all week.

With the verb "sleep," however, it's usual to include the article or possessive:

The little boy sleeps in a bed now; he doesn't sleep in the crib any more.
I'm comfortable only when I'm sleeping in my own bed.
Helen's cat sleeps in the bad with her.

"On the bed" is a little different. "On the bed" means "on the surface" of the bed. The person or object is not under any covering. With "on," there is always an article, or a possessive, or other determiner. "On" never appears alone with "bed."

The cat is sleeping on the bed.
Sherry is sitting on her bed.
John put his coat on the bed.
I usually sit on my bed to talk on the phone.

Rachel

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