2

I'm interested in using these three prepositions: on, to, and onto.

Let's say we have three sentences:

  1. The book fell on the floor.
  2. The book fell to the floor.
  3. The book fell onto the floor.

The first sentence as I see it, means: the book was on the floor in a vertical position and fell on one if its sides.

Second one: the book was somewhere not all n the floor and fell and ending up on the floor.

The third sentence basically has the same meaning as the second one.

Am I right?

Take some more examples:

  1. The boy jumped on the floor.
  2. The boy jumped to the floor.
  3. The boy jumped onto the floor.

First: The boy was standing on the floor and jumped up and down. Second and third: The boy was somewhere above the floor and jumped and landed on the floor.

  • Notice that because you use "fell" in your first set of examples and you use "jump" in your second set, it creates a misleading impression for the prepositions. What I mean is that, essentially, all three sentences mean "the book was somewhere not all n the floor and fell and ending up on the floor." (Cont'd.) – Teacher KSHuang Mar 13 '17 at 9:17
  • 1
    (Cont'd.) Meanwhile, if you want the first sentence to mean what you had said (vertical, fell on one of its sides), we normally say, "The book fell while it was on the floor." The way the first sentence is now, we would not normally imagine that the book had been on the floor already nor would we be able to guess if it had been vertical or horizontal. – Teacher KSHuang Mar 13 '17 at 9:17
1

Your idea that "on" suggests that the book was vertical but on the floor and then fell to a horizontal position is incorrect. Under normal circumstances in order to say this, we would say

The book on the floor fell over.

Let's look at your examples:

The book fell on the floor.

This is the normal and common way to say that the book was in someone's hand or on a table and fell off, landing on the floor.

The book fell to the floor.

Not the most common way to say this. It sounds slightly snobby to me, like it's from a movie set in England a century ago. Of course, current day people in the UK also use words that I would describe this way, so they may still say this over there. I might use this if the book's trajectory was interrupted, though:

The book fell off the table, hit the chair, slid down the curtain, and fell to the floor.

Next example:

The book fell onto the floor.

This means the same as the "to" case--it's just less common. It has a slightly different emphasis. It is slightly more specific about where the book ended up. It didn't go through the floor, but came to rest on top of it. In this case the distinction isn't meaningful, so this form would be unusual.

Now let's talk about this jumping boy:

The boy jumped on the floor.

This usually means the boy was already on the floor and is jumping up and down. But it could also mean he jumped from something else to the floor. It's pretty generic.

The boy jumped to the floor.

You could say this if the boy got on a floor in order to do something. Like if the floor was a stage and he jumped up to it. Or if we are all sitting up in the seats and he jumped down the floor. I mean, it's not really common but it could happen.

The boy jumped onto the floor.

This means pretty much the same as "The boy jumped to the floor." They are both kind of odd scenarios, but they do happen. Here you are again emphasizing that he came to rest ON TOP of the floor, which in some cases could work with a situation where the floor is elevated.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.