Meaning of ON in English

I. on 1 S1 W1 /ɒn $ ɑːn, ɒːn/ BrE AmE preposition

[ Language: Old English ]


a) touching a surface or being supported by a surface:

Leave your things on the table over there.

People were sunbathing on the grass.

The little girl was sitting on her father’s shoulders.

b) used to say that someone or something moves so that they are then touching or supported by a surface:

snow falling on the mountainsides

He threw himself on the bed.

2 . SUPPORTING YOUR BODY used to say what part of someone’s body is touching the ground or another surface and supporting their weight:

She was on her feet in no time.

He was on his hands and knees searching for something.

Can you stand on your head?

3 . PART HIT/TOUCHED used to say what part of someone or something is hit or touched:

I wanted to punch him on the nose.

Matt kissed her on the cheek.

4 . WRITTEN/SHOWN used to say where something is written or shown:

There’s a diagram on page 25.

He wrote his phone number on a piece of paper.

5 . ATTACHED attached to or hanging from something:

She hung her coat on a hook.

Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.

6 . PLACE in a particular place:

The town is right on the border.

Is there a water supply on the island?

He grew up on a ranch in California.

a store on Fifth Avenue

7 . POSITION in a particular position in relation to something else:

You’ll see the school on your left.

They live on the opposite side of the town.

8 . LOOKING/POINTING looking or pointing towards something or someone:

His eyes were on the stranger standing in the doorway.

She trained her binoculars on the house.

9 . DAY/DATE during a particular day:

They’ll be here on Tuesday.

I was born on July 1st.

We’ll see you on Christmas Eve.


Do not use on before 'this', 'last', or 'next' and a day of the week:

The school reopened last Tuesday (NOT on last Tuesday).

10 . AFFECTING/RELATING TO affecting or relating to someone or something:

a tax on cigarettes

his influence on young people

There will be new restrictions on the sale of weapons.

What effect will these changes have on the tourist industry?

11 . ABOUT about a particular subject:

Do you have any books on India?

You can get information on local services by calling this number.

an international conference on global warming

12 . ORDERS/ADVICE as a result of someone’s order, request, or advice:

He was killed on the King’s orders.

I accepted the offer on the advice of my lawyer.

13 . EAT/DRINK used to talk about what someone usually eats or drinks:

They live mainly on beans, lentils, and rice.

Is your baby on solid food yet?


a) in or into a bus, train, plane etc OPP off :

Did you manage to sleep on the plane?

Tommy should be on the six o'clock train.

She got on the first bus that came along.

b) riding something:

a statue of the King on horseback

I’ll probably come on my bike.

15 . MONEY receiving money for a job or as a regular payment:

He’s on quite a good salary now.

She must be on at least £50,000 a year.

the difficulties faced by families on low incomes

16 . FUEL using a particular type of ↑ fuel or power:

Most buses run on diesel.

Does it work on mains electricity?

17 . MEDICINE/DRUGS taking a particular drug or medicine regularly OPP off :

Are you still on antibiotics?

The doctor put her on Prozac.

A lot of these kids are on heroin by the age of 12.

18 . what’s somebody on? spoken used to say that someone is behaving in a very strange way, as if they are taking an illegal drug

19 . USING EQUIPMENT using a machine or piece of equipment:

He’s been on the computer all afternoon.

Is Rachel still on the phone?

20 . MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS playing a musical instrument:

He played a short piece on the piano.

The album features Rick Wakeman on keyboards.

21 . RADIO/TELEVISION being broadcast by radio or television:

What’s on TV tonight?

Did you hear that programme on the radio last night?

22 . RECORDED used to say in what form information is stored or music, films etc are recorded:

The movie is now available on video and DVD.

I always keep a backup copy on disk.

23 . ACTIVITY/JOURNEY taking part in an activity or travelling somewhere:

She’s on a course all this week.

I met him on vacation in Canada.

My girlfriend is often away on business trips.

24 . INCLUDED included in a group or team of people or in a list:

Are you still on the management committee?

Mr Edwards is no longer on the staff here.

Whose team are you on?

There was no steak on the menu.

What’s the next item on the agenda?

25 . WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS formal as soon as someone has done something or as soon as something has happened:

Couples are presented with a bottle of wine on their arrival at the hotel.

All patients are examined on admission to the hospital.

on doing something

What was your reaction on seeing him?

26 . COMPARED WITH SOMETHING compared with another person or thing:

This essay is a definite improvement on your last one.

Sales are 10% up on last year.

27 . CARRYING SOMETHING informal if you have something on you, you have it in your pocket, your bag etc:

I don’t have any money on me.

28 . PAY be on somebody spoken used to say who is going to pay for something:

The drinks are on me!

Each table will get a bottle of champagne on the house (=paid for by the restaurant, hotel etc) .

29 . TELEPHONE NUMBER used to say what number you should use in order to telephone someone SYN at American English :

You can contact me on this number.

30 . CAUSING SOMEBODY PROBLEMS used when something bad happens to you, for example when something you are using suddenly stops working, or someone you have a relationship with suddenly leaves you:

Suddenly the telephone went dead on me.

Dorothy’s first husband walked out on her.

• • •


▪ about used when saying what the subject of something is:

She’s always talking about you.


In her novels she writes about life in South Africa.


There’s something I wanted to ask you about.

▪ on about a particular subject:

a book on English grammar


a report on poverty in rural areas

▪ concerning/regarding formal about:

Prince Saiid answered questions concerning Kuwait’s future.


The report raises a number of questions regarding food safety.

▪ with regard to formal about – used especially when you want to start talking or writing about something:

Dear Sir, I’m writing with regard to your advertisement in The Times.

▪ re used in business letters and in emails to introduce the subject that you are going to write about:

Re: Friday’s meeting

II. on 2 S1 W1 BrE AmE adjective , adverb [not before noun]

1 . CONTINUING used to say that someone continues to do something or something continues to happen, without stopping:

We decided to play on even though it was snowing.

He went on and on (=talked for a very long time) about his job all evening.

2 . FURTHER if you move, walk etc on, you move forward or further towards something:

If you walk on a little, you can see the coast.

We drove on towards Manchester.

3 . LATER later than or after a particular time:

Now, 40 years on, this is one of the most successful theatres in the country.

From that moment on I never believed a word she said.

4 . WEARING SOMETHING if you have something on, you are wearing it:

All he had on was a pair of tattered shorts.

Put your coat on. It’s freezing outside.

5 . ATTACHED used to say that something is attached to something else, especially when it is in the correct position OPP off :

Is the cover on properly?

Remember to put the lid back on.

6 . WRITTEN used to say that something is written somewhere:

He was wearing a badge with his name on.

7 . TRANSPORT in or into a bus, train etc OPP off :

The train stopped and two people got on.

8 . LIGHT/MACHINE if a machine, light etc is on, it is operating OPP off :

Who left all the lights on?

The TV’s on, but nobody seems to be watching it.

He sat down at the desk and switched on the computer.

9 . BEING BROADCAST if a radio or television programme etc is on, it is being broadcast:

What time is ‘Star Trek’ on?

10 . EVENTS if an event is on, it has been arranged and is happening or will happen OPP off :

The transport union has confirmed that the strike is definitely on.

I’d avoid the city centre – there’s some kind of procession on.

Is the party still on tonight or have they cancelled it?

11 . PERFORMING/SPEAKING performing or speaking in public:

You’re on in two minutes.

12 . WORKING if you are on at a particular time, you are doing your job at that time:

I’m not on again until two o'clock tomorrow.

13 . have something on informal if you have something on, there is something that you must do:

I haven’t got anything on tomorrow, so I could see you then.

We’ve got a lot on at the moment.

14 . on and off ( also off and on ) for short periods but not regularly over a long period of time:

He’s been smoking for ten years now, on and off.

15 . be/go/keep on at somebody informal to keep complaining to someone or asking someone to do something, especially when this annoys them:

I’ve been on at him to fix that cupboard for weeks now.

I wish you wouldn’t go on at me the whole time!

16 . be/go/keep on about something British English informal to keep talking about something, in a way that is boring or annoying:

He’s always going on about money.

I don’t know what you’re on about!

17 . be not on British English spoken if something is not on, it is not acceptable or reasonable:

I’m sorry, what you’re suggesting is just not on!

18 . be on for something spoken to be ready or willing to do something that someone has suggested:

Right, how many of you are on for a drink after work?

19 . you’re on spoken used to tell someone that you accept a ↑ bet or an invitation to compete against them:

‘I bet you £20 he won’t turn up.’ ‘You’re on!’

⇨ ↑ onto

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.