Meaning of ON in English

The preposition is pronounced /ɒn/. The adverb and the adjective are pronounced /ɒn/.

Frequency: The word is one of the 700 most common words in English.

Note: In addition to the uses shown below, 'on' is used after some verbs, nouns, and adjectives in order to introduce extra information. 'On' is also used in phrasal verbs such as ‘keep on’, ‘cotton on’, and ‘sign on’.


If someone or something is on a surface or object, the surface or object is immediately below them and is supporting their weight.

He is sitting beside her on the sofa...

On top of the cupboards are vast straw baskets which Pat uses for dried flower arrangements...

On the table were dishes piled high with sweets...



If something is on a surface or object, it is stuck to it or attached to it.

I admired the peeling paint on the ceiling...

The clock on the wall showed one minute to twelve...

There was a smear of gravy on his chin.


On is also an adverb.

I know how to darn, and how to sew a button on.

ADV : ADV after v


If you put, throw, or drop something on a surface, you move it or drop it so that it is then supported by the surface.

He got his winter jacket from the closet and dropped it on the sofa...

He threw a folded dollar on the counter.

= onto



You use on to say what part of your body is supporting your weight.

He continued to lie on his back and look at clouds...

He raised himself on his elbows, squinting into the sun...

She was on her hands and knees in the bathroom.



You use on to say that someone or something touches a part of a person’s body.

He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the mouth...

His jaw was broken after he was hit on the head.



If someone has a particular expression on their face, their face has that expression.

The maid looked at him, a nervous smile on her face...

She looked at him with a hurt expression on her face.



When you put a piece of clothing on , you place it over part of your body in order to wear it. If you have it on , you are wearing it.

He put his coat on while she opened the front door...

I had a hat on.

ADV : ADV after v


You can say that you have something on you if you are carrying it in your pocket or in a bag.

I didn’t have any money on me...

PREP : PREP pron


If someone’s eyes are on you, they are looking or staring at you.

Everyone’s eyes were fixed on him...

It’s as if all eyes are focused on me...



If you hurt yourself on something, you accidentally hit a part of your body against it and that thing causes damage to you.

Mr Pendle hit his head on a wall as he fell...



If you are on an area of land, you are there.

You lived on the farm until you came back to America?

...a tall tree on a mountain.



If something is situated on a place such as a road or coast, it forms part of it or is by the side of it.

Bergdorf Goodman has opened a men’s store on Fifth Avenue...

The hotel is on the coast...

He visited relatives at their summer house on the river.



If you get on a bus, train, or plane, you go into it in order to travel somewhere. If you are on it, you are travelling in it.

We waited till twelve and we finally got on the plane...

I never go on the bus into the town...


On is also an adverb.

He showed his ticket to the conductor and got on.

ADV : ADV after v


If there is something on a piece of paper, it has been written or printed there.

The writing on the back of the card was cramped but scrupulously neat...

The numbers she put on the chart were 98.4, 64, and 105...



If something is on a list, it is included in it.

The Queen now doesn’t even appear on the list of the 40 richest people in Britain.

...the range of topics on the agenda for their talks.



Books, discussions, or ideas on a particular subject are concerned with that subject.

They offer a free counselling service which can offer help and advice on legal matters...

He declined to give any information on the Presidential election...



You use on to introduce the method, principle, or system which is used to do something.

...a television that we bought on credit two months ago.

...a levelling system which acts on the same principle as a spirit level...

They want all groups to be treated on an equal basis.



If something is done on an instrument or a machine, it is done using that instrument or machine.

...songs that I could just sit down and play on the piano...

I could do all my work on the computer...



If information is, for example, on tape or on computer, that is the way that it is stored.

‘I thought it was a load of rubbish.’—‘Right we’ve got that on tape.’...

Descriptions of the pieces have been logged on computer by the Art Loss Register...



If something is being broadcast, you can say that it is on the radio or television.

Every sporting event on television and satellite over the next seven days is listed...

Here, listen, they’re talking about it on Radio-Paris right now.


On is also an adjective.

...teenagers complaining there’s nothing good on.

ADJ : v-link ADJ


When an activity is taking place, you can say that it is on .

There’s a marvellous match on at Wimbledon at the moment...

We in Berlin hardly knew a war was on during the early part of 1941.

ADJ : v-link ADJ


You use on in expressions such as ‘ have a lot on ’ and ‘ not have very much on ’ to indicate how busy someone is. ( SPOKEN )

I have a lot on in the next week.

ADV : ADV after v , amount ADV


You use on to introduce an activity that someone is doing, particularly travelling.

I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise...

Students on the full-time course of study are usually sponsored...



When something such as a machine or an electric light is on , it is functioning or in use. When you switch it on , it starts functioning.

The central heating’s been turned off. I’ve turned it on again...

The light had been left on...

He didn’t bother to switch on the light.

≠ off

ADV : be ADV , ADV after v


If you are on a committee or council, you are a member of it.

Claire and Beryl were on the organizing committee...

He was on the Council of Foreign Relations.



You can indicate when something happens by saying that it happens on a particular day or date.

This year’s event will take place on June 19th, a week earlier than usual...

She travels to Korea on Monday...

I was born on Christmas day...

Dr. Keen arrived about seven on Sunday morning.



You use on when mentioning an event that was followed by another one.

She waited in her hotel to welcome her children on their arrival from London...

On reaching Dubai the evacuees are taken straight to Dubai international airport.

PREP : PREP n / -ing


You use on to say that someone is continuing to do something.

They walked on in silence for a while...

If the examination shows your company enjoys basically good health, read on...

He happened to be in England when the war broke out and he just stayed on.

ADV : ADV after v


If you say that someone goes on at you, you mean that they continually criticize you, complain to you, or ask you to do something.

She’s been on at me for weeks to show her round the stables...

He used to keep on at me about the need to win...

ADV : be ADV , ADV after v , usu ADV at n


You use on in expressions such as from now on and from then on to indicate that something starts to happen at the time mentioned and continues to happen afterwards.

Perhaps it would be best not to see much of you from now on...

We can expect trouble from this moment on...

ADV : from n ADV


You often use on after the adverbs ‘early’, ‘late’, ‘far’, and their comparative forms, especially at the beginning or end of a sentence, or before a preposition.

The market square is a riot of colour and animation from early on in the morning...

Later on I learned how to read music...

The pub where I had arranged to meet Nobby was a good five minutes walk further on.

ADV : adv ADV


Someone who is on a drug takes it regularly.

She was on antibiotics for an eye infection that wouldn’t go away...

Many of the elderly are on medication.



If you live on a particular kind of food, you eat it. If a machine runs on a particular kind of power or fuel, it uses it in order to function.

The caterpillars feed on a wide range of trees, shrubs and plants...

He lived on a diet of water and tinned fish...

...making and selling vehicles that run on batteries or fuel-cells.

= off



If you are on a particular income, that is the income that you have.

He’s on three hundred a week...

You won’t be rich as an MP, but you’ll have enough to live on.



Taxes or profits that are obtained from something are referred to as taxes or profits on it.

...a general strike to protest a tax on food and medicine last week...

The Church was to receive a cut of the profits on every record sold...



When you buy something or pay for something, you spend money on it.

I resolved not to waste money on a hotel...

He spent more on feeding the dog than he spent on feeding himself...

More money should be spent on education and housing.

PREP : PREP n / -ing


When you spend time or energy on a particular activity, you spend time or energy doing it.

People complain about how children spend so much time on computer games...

...the opportunity to concentrate more time and energy on America’s domestic agenda.

PREP : PREP n / -ing


If you say that something is not on or is just not on , you mean that it is unacceptable or impossible. ( mainly BRIT INFORMAL )

We shouldn’t use the police in that way. It’s just not on.

PHRASE : v-link PHR


If you say that something happens on and on , you mean that it continues to happen for a very long time.

...designers, builders, fitters–the list goes on and on...

Lobell drove on and on through the dense and blowing snow.

...a desert of ice stretching on and on.

PHRASE : usu PHR after v


If you ask someone what they are on about or what they are going on about , you are puzzled because you cannot understand what they are talking about. ( BRIT INFORMAL )

What on earth are you going on about?...

Honest, Kate, I don’t know what you’re on about.

PHRASE : V inflects


If you say that someone knows what they are on about , you are confident that what they are saying is true or makes sense, for example because they are an expert. ( BRIT INFORMAL )

It looks like he knows what he’s on about.

PHRASE : Vs inflect


If someone has something on you, they have evidence that you have done something wrong or bad. If they have nothing on you, they cannot prove that you have done anything wrong or bad. ( INFORMAL )

He may have something on her. He may have supplied her with drugs, and then threatened to tell if she didn’t do this...

You’ve got nothing on me and you know it. Your theory would never stand up in a court of law.

PHRASE : V inflects


on behalf of: see behalf

on and off: see off

and so on: see so

on top of: see top

Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary.      Английский словарь Коллинз COBUILD для изучающих язык на продвинутом уровне.