1

Are these prepositions alike: above and over

What is the difference in these sentence:

  • The bird flew over the tree.
  • The bird flew above the tree.

1 Answer 1

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As prepositions, over and above are very similar. There are only a few instances when one is preferred over the other. When quantifying, over is much better.

According to English Grammar Today,

We normally use over not above with numbers:

I get over sixty emails a day.

Not: I get above sixty emails a day.

If you weigh over 100 kilograms, then you may need to start a diet.

Not: If you weigh above 100 kilograms

  • He is over six feet tall. (correct)
  • He is above six feet tall. (wrong)

Or

  • Over 50% of the population is tone deaf. (correct)
  • Above 50% of the population is tone deaf. (wrong)

When used as an adverb, over also has the connotation of being to the side of something, instead of just on top of.

  • I moved over to the left of the bureau.
  • I moved above the bureau.

Above also has the connotation of being separate from something, which is not shared with over.

Consider pour milk over your cereal compared to pour milk above your cereal.

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  • -1 Why is above six feet wrong? Above 50% of? "Moved over to" uses a different sense of over. Please cite your sources.
    – Kris
    Jun 25, 2018 at 9:51
  • See gutenberg.org/files/31766/31766-h/31766-h.htm, rule #130
    – mankowitz
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:02
  • For something more modern, see dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/…
    – mankowitz
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:03
  • As for "moved over to", it is clear that over implies lateral movement, while above implies vertical movement.
    – mankowitz
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:05
  • Include the references in the answer for the benefit of all readers. I did not find anything useful in what you've cited.
    – Kris
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:08

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