threw the paper <onto/on> to the roof

Discussion in 'English Only' started by learning_grenglish, Jul 28, 2007.

  1. learning_grenglish

    learning_grenglish Senior Member

    India
    I threw the paper onto/on to the roof of the house.

    Which one is correct?

    To me, the both sound the same.
     
  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    Onto would be the preferred on in AE.
     
  3. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I threw the paper onto/on the roof of the house. Then I went on to the next house.

    When "on" is part of the preposition, write "onto" to be explicit, just "on" colloquially. When "on" is an adverb, write "on to". The rule is the same with "into" vs. "in to" and "upon" vs. "up on": "I threw the paper up onto the roof." (not "upon to" or "up on to")

    Does that help?
     
  4. learning_grenglish

    learning_grenglish Senior Member

    India
    Yes. Thank you very much.

    The book fell onto my foot. [Am I right?]
     
  5. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    I hate to really confuse the issue but "onto" is usually used when we are describing a deliberate movement such as in your first sentence ("I threw the paper onto the roof of the house"). If we are describing an accident such as the book falling, we would normally say "The book fell on my foot".

    Honestly, I have no idea why this is but "onto" seems to have a more deliberate meaning than "on" in these contexts ie:

    "I swept the papers off of the desk and onto the floor"

    OR

    "The papers fell on the floor"
     
  6. learning_grenglish

    learning_grenglish Senior Member

    India
    So,
    I pushed him to fall onto the ground. [deliberately]
    She fell on the ground. [an accident]

    Am I right?
     
  7. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The phrase "pushed him to fall" doesn't make sense. The problem is that "push" is not one of those verbs like "cause" or "have". The subject of an infinitive after "push" is the subject of "push", not its object.

    I have more to say about "onto" vs. "on", but I'll wait for you to open a separate thread since that is not the same issue as "onto" vs. "on to".
     
  8. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I was taught at primary school that into is spelt as one word, and on to should always be spelt as two words. The Oxford English Dictionary agrees: it has no entry headed onto.
     
  9. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    The online American Heritage Dictionary, however, does list onto as a single word. It has an interesting discussion on usage under on. In general, it is consistent with the comments above.

    Concerning se16teddy's point they say:
    "In constructions where on is an adverb attached to a verb, it should not be joined with to to form the single word onto: move on to (not onto) new subjects; hold on to (not onto) our gains."

    Perhaps this is another AE / BE difference.
     
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    True, but under "Spellings" it lists onto as an alternative spelling used since the 16th century. Many of the examples listed use onto.
     
  11. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Under the entry cat the OED gives as alternative spellings catte, catt, catt, catte, kat and katte, and it gives examples of all these uses. But by putting only cat at the top of the page, it suggests that cat is the only possible modern standard spelling. Similarly, by heading the entry I referred to on to (only), it suggests that on to is the only possible modern standard spelling.

    I must admit, though, that lots of other authorities seem to use onto as a matter of course. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2004/03/22/smform22.xml
     
  12. Manorrd Junior Member

    Mandelieu, France
    English/Canada
    That is interesting, no?

    I wonder if there are any other different usings of English between England and America.
     
  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There are many differences between BE and AE - British English and American English. This is not one of them.

    There is a substantial entry in New Fowler's Modern English Usage about on to, onto.
    On to (compound preposition) - first recorded in 1581 and in continuous use since then;
    onto (preposition) - first recorded in 1751 and in continuous use since then.
    The form onto is in the ascendancy.

    When on is an independent adverb, not part of a compound preposition, on to must be used. We walked on to the next tree.

    There is an interesting example.
    We walked on to the beach.
    ... meaning that we didn't stop at some particular point, we kept walking until we came to the beach. We may have continued until we were walking on the beach, but perhaps not.

    We walked onto the beach.
    ... meaning that we didn't stop when we could see the beach, or at the edge of the beach, we kept walking until we were walking on the beach.

    The OED lists only one current spelling for cat.
    For on to, it lists two current forms, on to and onto and gives many examples of both. The examples broadly follow the distinctions described, grouped in OED definition 1a as alpha and beta.
     
  14. kenny4528

    kenny4528 Senior Member

    Taipei
    Mandarin, Taiwan
    This post with reference to on to and onto.
     
  15. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Rule of thumb: If you mean "on top of" or "aware of," use onto.

    The responsibility shifted onto Atlas's shoulders.
    We're onto the government's shennanigans.
     

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