Difference between On and Upon

If you randomly ask students how the words ‘on’ and ‘upon’ differ, most would have difficulty pointing out the difference. Some might answer that both these terms have the same meaning, while others might deny it. So, is there any difference between these two terms? Or are they synonymous and can be used interchangeably? All these queries will be answered in this article.

The English Language may sometimes appear confusing and tough to understand, but that’s not true! If someone knows all about words in the language, how to use them and where to use them, then the subject turns out to be very easy and interesting for them. After going through this article, you will be able to understand the usage of the terms ‘on’ and ‘upon’. Let us have a look at the following topics:

Table Summarising the Difference between On and Upon

On Upon
Meaning The word ‘on’ is used to denote the location of something, a particular date for an event or about a certain topic of discussion The word ‘upon’ is used to refer to the location/position of a thing or a certain point of time.
Usage It is used as a Preposition. It is used as a Preposition.
Example The cat is on the couch. Once upon a time, a beautiful queen lived.

If you notice carefully, you will realise both ‘on’ and ‘upon’ mean the same thing, and one can use them interchangeably, but not always. The only thing they must remember is the context they are using these in. Let’s go through the detailed meanings of both these words to understand the concepts clearly.

The Difference between On and Upon – Meanings

The only difference between ‘on’ and ‘upon’ is that the former has an informal tone, whereas the latter has a formal tone. ‘Upon’ is often used in stories to denote a time in the past, for example, ‘Once upon a time, there lived a king and queen.’ Apart from that, one can easily swap both these words without worrying about creating an incorrect sentence. When the word ‘on’ is used as a preposition, it indicates direct contact of the object with the thing where it is placed, for example, ‘The baby lay on the cot.’ Here, it shows that the baby is directly placed on the bed. Let’s have a closer look at the examples below for a better understanding.

Examples of On and Upon

Let’s go through the given examples of ‘on’ and ‘upon’ to understand the concept clearly:

On – The teapot is on the stove. (preposition)

Upon – Shelly placed the coat upon the stand. (preposition)

These examples will help the students understand the difference between the words ‘on’ and ‘upon’, making it easier for them to apply these correctly sentences of their own.

On and Upon – Conclusion

Summing up, both the words ‘on’ and ‘upon’ are synonymous and can be used interchangeably too. We have to remember to understand the sentence’s context before using these two prepositions. BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘Difference Between’ concepts in the English language that students often get confused with.


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