‘On the Internet’ vs. ‘in the Internet’, capital I

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

Prepositions are a common source of mistakes for learners of any language. The word “Internet” is especially problematic for an English learner because it can cause several problems at once. First, when it is used as a noun describing the network we all use, it is used with the definite article:

I love the Internet! (correct)
I love Internet! (dubious)

I wrote “dubious” instead of “wrong” for the second option because some native speakers do use the noun without the article. However, most English speakers consider the first option to be the only correct one, so it is the one you should use.

The word “Internet” isn’t preceded by an article when it is used as an adjective in front of a noun that itself takes no article, e.g.

Do you have Internet access? (correct)
Do you have the Internet access? (wrong)

The term “Internet access” is sometimes shortened to “Internet”, in which case we don’t use an article:

Do you have Internet? (correct)
Do you have the Internet? (wrong)

The second sentence doesn’t make sense; you can’t own the Internet, but you can have Internet in the sense of Internet access.

Another problem is the preposition. When something is part of the Internet, we say that it is “on the Internet”, not “in” or “at” the Internet:

I didn’t find the article on the Internet. (correct)
I didn’t find the article in the Internet. (wrong)

As for whether you should capitalize “Internet”: It’s hard to make a mistake here. Both “Internet” and “internet” are commonly used when referring to the network. Traditionally, “Internet” was considered a proper noun and written with a capital letter. Nowadays, the noun is considered to be a generic name, like “electricity” or “water supply”, and is commonly spelled “internet”, so:

You can surf the Internet. (correct, more traditional)
You can also surf the internet. (correct, more recent)

Some style guides prefer one spelling to the other, so if you are writing a text for someone else, you may want to check which style guide they follow.

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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