On vs Upon

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What’s the difference between them?



On is a preposition that means 'at a specific point in time or location' or 'in the process of.'


1. We will turn on the lights when it gets dark.

2. She switched on the vacuum cleaner.

3. He turned on the television and began watching his favorite show.



Upon means at or near in time or place; immediately or soon after; in anticipation of.


1. Upon arriving home, she took off her coat and shoes.

2. He was determined to make a difference upon his return to the community.

3. Upon seeing the sunset, she felt a sense of awe and wonder.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference




1. Upon

2. Over

3. In

4. At

5. Ahead of

1. Off

2. Absent

3. Disagree

4. Reverse

5. Stop


1. Upon arrival

2. At

3. Instantaneously

4. At the same time

5. Subsequently

1. Down

2. Below

3. Beneath

4. Before

5. Against

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "On", "Upon".

1. Direct vs. Immediate: Think of 'on' as direct contact, like a book resting on a table. 'Upon' can have a sense of immediacy in events, as in 'Upon hearing the news, she cried.'

2. While both can denote position, 'on' often indicates a fixed state ('The cat is on the roof') whereas 'upon' can suggest a transition or action taking place ('Upon arriving home, I saw the cat on the roof').

Practice English with the Promova app and avoid misusing confusing words

Frequently asked questions

In what situations should the first word 'on' be used?

The word 'on' is generally used to express a physical location, with something that is on top of a surface or in contact with it. For example, 'the book is on the table', or 'she put the pen on her desk'. It can also be used to indicate a position in time, such as 'he will arrive on Tuesday'.

When is the appropriate context for using the second word 'upon'?

The word 'upon' is used in more formal or literary contexts to express a physical location. For example, 'the bird perched upon the branch', or 'she placed the book upon the shelf'. It can also be used to indicate a moment in time, such as 'upon my arrival'.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, 'on' is pronounced /ɑn/, while 'upon' is pronounced /əˈpɑːn/.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

One common mistake people make when using 'on' and 'upon' is using them interchangeably. While they have similar meanings, 'on' is generally considered more casual and 'upon' is more formal.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. I left the keys _____ the table.

2. Once _____ a time, there was a brave knight.

3. The decision is based _____ the evidence presented.

4. He stumbled _____ an old diary in the attic.

5. Whats going _____ here?

6. We agreed to meet _____ his arrival.

1. On.

Explanation: In this context, on refers to a specific location, indicating that the keys are at a specific point (the table). Therefore, on is the correct choice.

2. Upon.

Explanation: The phrase Once upon a time is a standard opening for fairy tales and stories, making upon the correct choice here.

3. On.

Explanation: When referring to making decisions based on certain criteria or evidence, on is typically used, making it the right choice for this sentence.

4. Upon.

Explanation: The phrase stumbled upon is a common way to indicate discovering something by chance. Therefore, upon fits best in this context.

5. On.

Explanation: The phrase Whats going on is a common way to ask what is happening. On is the appropriate word for this question.

6. Upon.

Explanation: When referring to an action that takes place immediately or soon after a specific event, upon is often used. In this case, the meeting is set to happen soon after his arrival, making upon the correct choice.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.