What's the difference between these two sentences? Are they correct?

The water drop fell onto my head
The water drop fell on my head

Could anyone explain me difference between these terms?

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL, Davyd. We expect people do to a little research before asking a question. In this case, perhaps you could look up some definitions of the two words, for example here, dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/onto. If you can't find the answers you need, update your answers to show your research (for example links to the definitions), and then ask specific question about what you don't understand.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 16:45
  • They're both syntactically valid, but on is far more common in such contexts. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


In some cases, especially ones involving inanimate objects, the two prepositional phrases are interchangeable; your example sentences are identical in meaning.

In other situations, particularly involving people or animals, there is a difference: onto implies motion from some other position, while on implies only a current location. So "John fell onto the roof" means that John was somewhere above the roof, fell, and landed on the roof. (At this point he could be standing, kneeling, or lying down; it depends on how far he fell and how much control he was able to exercise during the landing.) "John fell on the roof", however, means that John was already on the roof in a standing or walking position, fell, and is now lying down.

  • 3
    Hmm, I'd say, "John fell on the roof" is ambiguous. It might mean that while he was on the roof, he fell. Or it might mean that he was somewhere else, in a helicopter hovering over the building perhaps, and he fell and landed on the roof.
    – Jay
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 17:02
  • 1
    @Jay, I suppose it does allow both meanings, but I would assume the stated one unless I had good reason to think otherwise.
    – Hellion
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 17:32

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