On vs. Onto

Have you ever been confused about which of the prepositions 'on' and 'onto' you should use? Learn more in this lesson.

"On" vs. "Onto" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'on' and 'onto' is in the meaning they convert. 'On' is used to talk about location and motion while 'onto' is used to talk only about motion and direction.

Talking about Location

When we want to talk about the location of something that is vertically at a higher position and in contact with the surface of the lower object. 

My bag is on the desk.

I left the bottle on the counter.

Talking about Motion

Both 'on' and 'onto' can be used to show motion and direction. Have a look:

She drove her baby stroller on the platform.

She drove her baby's stroller onto the platform.

State verbs cannot be used with 'onto.' State verbs do not refer to an action and therefore cannot help representing motions. Take a look at the following examples:

He is on his way.

He is onto his way.

Tip!

There are state verbs that are used with 'onto' to create idiomatic phrases and sentences. Such as:

She is onto us.

Here, this idiom means that the subject is close to discovering a secret.

He is onto something.

Here, it means that the subject has found a new way of solving something.

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