Difference Between On and Upon (With Table)

Prepositions are words or groups of terms used to show the relationship between noun and pronoun in the sentence with another word. Some of the examples of prepositions are to, at, in, of etc. Upon and On can be used interchangeably, but these words can’t be interchanged in some conditions.

On vs Upon

The difference between on and upon is that ‘on’ can be used while talking or writing informally. On is generally used to show that something is supported by or is in contact with other elements. It makes a sentence look less formal and shows the location of something or some object, while ‘upon’ is used to create a sentence that seems more traditional. Upon used to express the place and time of a particular thing. Both upon and on can be used as prepositions and adverbs. But Upon is most preferably be used as a preposition.

On has its multiple ways and meanings; for one, it is used to indicate the position above something in contact with it or supporting it. For example, The book was on the table. It also indicated attachment to something; for instance, Pearls were on the string. It is used in predicting some specific or certain times abstract motion; for example, Children were jumping on the couch.

Upon is used in multiple ways, with different meanings; it could indicate towards someone or something at an elevated position; for example, The posters were upon the building. It could also be used to indicate the completion or proximity of something, for instance; Festivals are upon us, we need to buy clothes.

Comparison Table Between On and Upon

Parameters of ComparisonOnUpon
UseIt is used to show the location of an object.This is used to express the time and place of a particular thing.
NatureOn is used in a sentence Normally.Upon is used to make a sentence more formal.
Place in grammarCan be used as prepositions and adverbs.Can be used as both prepositions and adverbs. But the preposition is most appropriate.
ObjectiveOn is often used to show a stationary object.Upon is mainly used to describe an object in motion.
Example Example for a more clear understanding – He was lying on the ground.Example for a more clear understanding – The rat jumped upon the bread.

What is On?

On is a preposition that is used to express an object in its stationary state. It is generally used in informal settings. It is commonly used to show that something is in contact with other elements in its surroundings. It makes a sentence looks less formal, and it shows the location of something or some object. It’s a term in native construction, which means that its relation or strings were attached with old English. It is used to indicate attachment with something in particular and highlight it in the sentence.

It was a less idiomatic version. In the ancient period, on and in were used as a common word. There were no significant distinctions between on and in and can be used wherever. But with time, people refined the English language and came up with specific criteria, which helped in distinguishing the usage for in and on.

There are a number of ways leading to different meanings through which the preposition ‘on’ could be used in a sentence. One other very common usage of on is showing an event at a particular time or format. For example; On 2nd December; It was on this day that we went for a picnic; We were on time, etc.

What is Upon?

Upon term was made with the mixture of the adverb ‘up’ and the preposition ‘on’. And this can be used as both adverb and preposition. In present times, Upon is considered old fashioned. It is used to describe an object in motion and not in a stationary state. It expresses the sentence as more formal than the latter, and also it shows the place time of the particular thing.

One of the most common examples for upon could be seen in children’s stories, where stories start with “once upon a time….” Other meanings include while indicating something at an elevated position; for example, there were black flags upon the pirate ship, He was seated upon a bench, the crow was sitting upon a rock, etc. One of the usages of upon is indicating something immediately after; for example, He began studying upon the family functions.

Main Differences Between On and Upon

  1. On and Upon can be used interchangeably sometimes. But not in every situation since on is used to show the location of an object, whereas upon is used to express the time and place of a particular thing.
  2. These words sound similar with exact meaning, but the major difference between them is that one expresses the objects in a stationary while upon expresses in motion.
  3. On is used more often while in today’s time, Upon is considered as an old fashioned term.
  4. On indicates pertinence, whereas on the other hand, upon indicates suppressiveness.
  5. On can be often used in places that need something less idiomatic term than upon.


On and Upon both, a preposition is used in different scenarios depending on if it is a formal or an informal situation. But at times, they could be interchanged depending on the context. For example, He relies on his father for help, and He relies upon his father for support, which is correct.

Although these times are rare, in other situations, for example, He is always on time, and He sat upon the Camel, which has different meanings. Here both the words could not be interchanged. Therefore, care needs to be taken while using the two terms and a good knowledge of English grammar can be very useful at this.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/410759
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/039219216501305105

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