The Language Nook – Le coin langues

The difference between in the way and on the way explained in the Language Nook - Yolaine Bodin

In the way or on the way: What’s the difference?

by | 7 May 2019 | English Language


In the way and on the way are two common phrases in English. They look and sound similar but they have completely different meanings.


So, what is the difference between in the way and on the way and when should we use them?


In the way is used to say that something obstructs or blocks your way to the space you need to use to do something. Look at these examples:

  • He wanted to put the car in the garage but his wife’s motorbike was in the way. He had to move it first.
  • You can’t take a photo of the band from here, there are too many people in the way.

When necessary, you can also replace the article the by a possessive adjective and say: in my way, in your way, in his way, in her way, in our way, in their way

  • They wanted to run down the path but there were people in their way.


In the way can also be used to say something prevents you from doing something or reaching a goal. For example, you may say:

  • They said they wouldn’t stand in the way of the CEO setting up a new subsidiary.


In the way can also mean in the manner:

  • We can see a new trend in the way managers deal with employees these days.
  • Not all scientists think in the same way.


On the way –but also on my way, on your way, on his way, on her way, on our way or on their way– is used to say something or someone is coming or approaching a place or a goal. Here are some examples:

  • Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon, I’m already on my way!
  • He was on his way to work when he had a car accident.
  • We met Cecelia on our way home.
  • She is on her way to being the next world champion!


There you are! You now know the difference between in the way and on the way. Congratulations! 🙂


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