What Part of Speech is “On”?

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The word “on” is primarily known as a preposition in the English language, but it also functions as an adverb, an adjective, and part of phrasal verbs. As a preposition, it typically indicates a position atop a surface, involvement in a device or machine, a part of something, or involvement in an activity.

As an adverb, it adds meaning to the verbs it accompanies, often indicating continuity or progression. When used as an adjective, “on” describes the state of a device or an engagement in action. In phrasal verbs, “on” combines with a verb to create a new meaning entirely.

1: “On” as a Preposition

As a preposition, “on” denotes being in a position above something and touching it, being supported by something, or being a part of something. It also indicates a specific day or part of a day upon which an event occurs.


  1. The book is on the table.
  2. She was lying on the beach.
  3. The painting hangs on the wall.
  4. The meeting is scheduled on Monday.

2: “On” as an Adverb

When used as an adverb, “on” implies continuation or progression of an action. It often follows a verb to indicate that the action is in process or has been completed.


  1. Keep on walking until you see the store.
  2. The lights are on.
  3. He carried on with his work despite the noise.
  4. They moved on to the next topic.

3: “On” as an Adjective

In its role as an adjective, “on” describes the functioning state of devices or the active engagement of someone in an action. It is commonly used in tech and entertainment contexts.


  1. Make sure the television is on.
  2. Is your phone still on?
  3. The alarm system is on.
  4. They went live on air.

4: “On” in Phrasal Verbs

On” is a critical component of many phrasal verbs, where it combines with a verb to create a new, idiomatic meaning. The meaning of the phrasal verb often cannot be deduced by looking at the individual meanings of the verb and “on.”


  1. She finally decided to move on.
  2. They hung on every word he said.
  3. I’ll take on the challenge.
  4. He gave up on trying to fix the old car.

Tips for Using “On”

  • When using “on” as a preposition, ensure it precedes a noun or pronoun to indicate position or part of something.
  • As an adverb, “on” can be used to signify the continuation of an action or its completion.
  • In its adjective form, use “on” to describe the state of a device or engagement in action.
  • Be mindful of the context when using “on” in phrasal verbs, as the meaning can significantly change based on the verb it is paired with.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Confusing “on” with other prepositions like “in” or “at” when indicating specific locations or times. “On” is typically used for surfaces and specific days, while “in” is used for enclosed spaces and “at” for specific points.
  • Misusing “on” in phrasal verbs can alter the intended meaning of the sentence. Always check the definition of the phrasal verb as a whole.
  • Overusing “on” as a filler in spoken language can make speech less clear and more informal.

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