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I know that we use the preposition "ON" with the word "ISLAND" , but I remember once reading a rule that states :

1. Use "on" with "island" if the island is small or not inhabited.
2. Use "in" with "island" if the island is big and inhabited by many people.

I am wondering if that rule or information is correct!

Thanks in advance
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Yes, that is generally true in a way.

However, we use 'in' with the big islands only if they have another geographical name. For example, he lives ON the island of Manhattan, but IN New York City. There are weather instruments ON the island of Greenland, but IN Greenland.

If we refer to the city of Miami Beach, (it is a city), we say that he lives IN Miami Beach. But if we refer to just the island, we say ON the Beach.

But, there are exceptions. We say that they live ON Long Island or ON Whidbey Island, both large, inhabited islands.

The use of the preposition may vary from place to place, but in general, of the islands that I know and know of, they are called by the names I have described.

It would be interesting if our members would add islands, island cities, island countries to this list. Let's see what we come up with.
It seems to me that if the proper name of the island contains the word "Island", then we would always use 'on'. At least, this is true of places I've had direct experience with:

- In 1982, I lived on Long Island, which is in the State of New York.

- My family used to spend every summer on Long Beach Island (in New Jersey).

- I spent last weekend on Block Island.
(Block Island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Rhode Island.)

Speaking of 'Rhode Island', that is not actually an island. Rather, it is a state that happens to have 'Island' as part of its name. In this case, I would say "My brother lives in Rhode Island".


I would tend to use "in" with the plural 'islands' in this sort of sentence:

- He has a home somewhere in the Hawaiian islands.

HOWEVER, when it is again narrowed down to a single island, I would go back to 'on':

- He has a home on one of the Hawaiian islands.
Last edited by Amy, Co-Moderator

Vera, welcome to the grammar exchange.

I agree that The Durrells on Corfu sounds better.  However, both are correct.  The Durrells lived on the island of Corfu, which is in the regional unit of Corfu.

Similarly, one can be said to live on Hawaii, meaning the island, or in Hawaii, meaning the state within the United States of which that island is a part.


I just had to register, just to thank you all for making it even more complicated for/to me (I question everything right now), at the moment I'm Dutch and what I was looking for myself, before seeing this thread, came from this paragraph:

After having served as the largest port in the world for 42-years between 1962 and 2004 before it was surpassed by Singapore and Shanghai, The Port of Rotterdam is still the biggest port in the European continent.

Given the fact a lot of times the correct Dutch spelling is similar to the English version, this time not. We would use: 'biggest port ON the European continent'.

But when I looked it up for the English spelling, to make sure, I saw an explanation that when the continent name is mentioned, then you use IN. They also tell: "When the word in front of it ends with -ing, it's always "ON".

Of course when I then look up whether we Dutch make that distinction in case the name of the continent is in the text...they didn't mentioned that Here the original and English translation.

Going to make some lunch, in my kitchen, on my plate.
Cheers, maybe I will look later on myself but will surely bookmark this page to see if any addition to either the island or continent question.

Last edited by nlx78

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