Belong TO and Belong IN

Published by englistation on January 3, 2021

belong to

Since in most cases there are no grammatical rules to tell you which preposition is used with which verb, it is a good idea to learn (some of) them together. For example, it can be confusing that the verb belong can be used with the prepositions to, in, and also with.

belong ‘to’

Let’s start with the most well-known one, the phrasal verb belong to. A phrasal verb is an idiomatic expression that combines a verb with a preposition or an adverb, and this idiomatic meaning is different from the combined meanings of the individual words.

belong to somebody: to be the property of a person

This book belongs to Jenny.

Does this coat belong to you?

belong to something: to be a member of something

John and Tim belong to the same football team.

Don’t leave me out, I also belong to this team!

 

So use this construction when you want to talk about possession, ownership. Or, in case of people, being part of something bigger.

 

belong ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘with’

This verb is also used in itself, not only as a phrasal verbs. When it is used this way, it can be followed by prepositions but not necessarily:

in and on after ‘belong’ quite logically refer to a physical situation where someone or something is in the right place:

This table belongs in the living room.

Stannis belongs on the throne!

Feet do not belong on the table, do they?

with  means that the given things / people should be together based on similarity or because they are a perfect match:

This document belongs with the others.

You belong with me.

 

And with no preposition:

Thank you for this meeting. Now I finally feel that I belong here.

 

As you can see, no preposition follows here but an adverb (here).

 

And finally, let us see two sentences that are often confused:

You belong to me: denotes ownership, the speaker thinks they can own a person like some object

You belong with me: means that the speaker thinks that they should be together because they are similar, or they are a perfect match and it is their fate to be together, but they do not own each other

 

Our suggestion

  1. With words that go together: learn them together. Write such new words in your notebook together and write one or two phrases as well as sentences with them. If you learn some of these sentences, it will be easier for your brain to produce similar but new sentences with the same words.
  2. In order to learn such important grammatical issues, you have to practise on a regular basis. Because this is how the things that you learn will be consolidated in your brain. While practising you are faced with many different grammatical forms and vocabulary. And the more you encounter them, the better you know them. The learning process in our brain is similar to a path in the forest. “The more often you walk the path, the more familiar it becomes and the easier it is to traverse.” (Kendra Cherry)

I am pretty sure we have sparked your interest. If so, you can read more about prepositions related issues here.