'In the Sun' or 'Under the Sun'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

In the Sun vs Under the Sun: Understanding the Difference

The phrases in the sun and under the sun are both commonly used in English, but they have different meanings.

In the sun is typically used to describe someone or something that is physically located where the sun's rays are directly hitting them. Here, the word sun refers to sunshine or sunlight:

✅ It's nice to sit in the sun and enjoy the warmth on a chilly day.

✅ After applying sunscreen, she spent the afternoon reading in the sun.

✅ The children played in the sun all day and came home with rosy cheeks.

✅ Make sure to wear a hat while sitting in the sun.

The entry for the noun sun in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Source: English Grammar in Use, Fifth Edition

Under the sun means 'in the world' or 'on earth'. Often associated with the idiom everything under the sun, which means 'everything that exists or is possible', this phrase is used to highlight an extensive range of items or possibilities:

✅ We have tried every method under the sun, but nothing seems to work.

✅ He claimed to have tried every trick under the sun to fix his computer.

✅ Her new book explores every cuisine under the sun.

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

The entry for the phrase under the sun in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

In summary, in the sun generally refers to being directly exposed to sunlight, whereas under the sun means 'in the world' and is often used metaphorically to emphasise the extensive range of things being discussed.

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Examples from the Media

If your bare skin gets flush after, say, 20 minutes in the sun without any protection, using a sufficient amount of SPF 15 would theoretically prevent you from going red for 15 times that duration (five hours). An SPF 30 equals 30 times that duration (10 hours). Toronto Star (2019)

This is not to say that people should sit out in the sun for hours at a time without sunscreen, or sit in a tanning bed. Daily Mail (2024)

They say there's nothing new under the sun, but there is something new with today's Herald Sun in the shape of a new magazine aimed at the paper's male readers. —The Age (2005) 

After trying every turkey roasting method under the sun, this is the one I come back to, and the one I always teach at my cooking classes. —CBS News (2007)


Choose the correct preposition to complete each sentence.

1. I left my ice cream in/under the sun, and it melted within minutes.

2. They have every gadget in/under the sun in their kitchen, yet they eat out most nights.

3. As a journalist, she has covered every topic in/under the sun.

4. You can find all sorts of items for sale at the market, anything in/under the sun!

5. They set up lawn chairs in/under the sun and relaxed with iced tea.

6. My cat loves lying in/under the sun and soaking up the warmth.

7. He seems to have an opinion on every subject in/under the sun.

8. It's dangerous to leave pets in/under the sun without any shade or water.

9. In that library, you could find books on every subject in/under the sun.

10. The tomatoes are ripening nicely in/under the sun on the windowsill.

11. Anna and I enjoy spending time in/under the sun.

12. There isn't a single issue in/under the sun that hasn't been discussed in their meetings.

Answer Key

1. in    2. under    3. under    4. under    5. in    6. in    7. under    8. in    9. under    10. in    11. in    12. under

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