Learn English – “In the menu” vs. “on the menu” (in software)

in onprepositionssoftware

I usually see this phrase used interchangeably with the prepositions in and on. I know that their meaning isn’t the same, but I can’t think of situations where we should use one instead of another. Can anyone shed some light on any
differences between these two:

  1. In the menu.
  2. On the menu.

Just to clarify, I’m talking about menus of computer programs.

Best Answer

This comes up often, and here's the general answer.

In this specific case, menu can be viewed either physically, printed on paper to read, i.e,

  • 2-Dimensional, in which case on is used
    • It's right there on the menu; you can't miss it.

or informationally, like a list, or a report; this a Container metaphor, i.e,

  • 3-Dimensional, in which case in is used.
    • It's hard to resist the Armenian dishes in the menu.

Quite often it makes no difference, because the information that's in the menu is also printed on the menu.

This alternation is true of any physical noun that can be interpreted as information, like story, picture, book, article, paper, report, list, plans, etc. These are collectively called "Picture Nouns" and they have very complex syntax in English.

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