How to say table was the thing I kicked into using stub?

Is it one of these?

A. I stubbed my toe by the table?

B. I stubbed my toe onto the table?

by is used to show the person or thing that does something. You can't really use by with a table in this sentence, because it's you that's doing something (kicking the table). You could use by about a table if, for example, it fell on you:

He was killed by a table that fell from the roof garden of the hotel.

onto is used to show movement into or on a particular place. for example:

He climbed onto the stage

One of the meanings of on is to show what causes pain or injury as a result of being touched, for example

I hit my head on the shelf as I was standing up

on is therefore the correct preposition to use in your sentence.

  • "into" would also work for this case, as for a car crashing into a barrier for example. – Baldrickk Sep 17 at 13:28
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    While "I stubbed my toe into the table" is certainly understandable, It's not idiomatic and not something I would expect to hear from a native speaker. Using "on" is much more common. – Steven Lowes Sep 17 at 13:42
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    I think that this should be reordered a bit, when I first saw this answer I thought it was recommending "onto" as the preposition to use. Answering the question in the first line before going into your explanation helps avoid that kind of confusion in my experience. – Kamil Drakari Sep 17 at 14:37
  • @KamilDrakari: the OP's question refers to by and onto: I have explained why these are not appropriate before suggesting a better preposition. – JavaLatte Sep 17 at 17:09
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    I stubbed my toe by the table could also be understood as I stubbed my toe (beside / next to) the table. (In the same way that I walked by the table does not mean that the table is an agent of some kind of action.) But while it is usable here, it's not usable in the sense that's been asked in the question itself. – Jason Bassford Sep 17 at 17:47

On

I stubbed my toe on the table

But I’m assuming it was the table leg? So if you want to be more specific:

I stubbed my toe on the table leg

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    The leg is understood, as it's implausible to stub a toe on the table top. You would have to be doing some kind of kick, and we don't call that "stubbing". – Barmar Sep 17 at 15:33
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    "I was practicing my roundhouse kicks and crashed into the table!" is one example. – harperville Sep 17 at 15:59
  • No @Barmar. It’s very plausible. You might be drilling a hole in the wall and standing on a chair that is level with the table surface. But yes - probably in real life you wouldn’t bother to say table leg. – MotherBrain Sep 17 at 21:32
  • Lol I'm trying to imagine someone standing on a chair (a very tall chair, by the way, to be level with the surface) in such a way so as to accidentally stub your toe. – Cullub Sep 17 at 22:13
  • It’s a tall stool, the table is low and narrow, by the wall. Maybe one you keep plants on. Therefore it’s easy to lean over it to do the drilling, but also easy to stub your toe on it. – MotherBrain Sep 17 at 23:39

According to Wordreference and the Collins English dictionary you can also use "against":

I stubbed my toe against the step.

I stubbed my toes against a table leg.

As commented by other users, this expression is regional: although it would be understood, it wouldn't sound natural in the American Midwest, nor would it in the UK. But in some parts of America it would.

In light of this, I would recommend to use

I stubbed my toe on the table

which seems to be accepted everywhere.

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    Against would be understandable, but it's not something a native speaker would say. It makes sense with some of the other verbs they use ("strike against") but it doesn't sound right for "stub". – random_forest_fanatic Sep 17 at 15:50
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    'against' is most certainly something a native AmEng speaker would say (in addition to 'on'), though it might be regional. "I stubbed my toe against the curb," for example. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 17 at 15:54
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Interesting. I've never heard anything other than "on" in British English. – David Richerby Sep 17 at 16:56
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    @FabioTurati Hehe, nope, I'm American, from the midwest. – random_forest_fanatic Sep 17 at 20:11
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    "Against" would seem to be regional; I've never heard it in the Northeast. – chepner Sep 17 at 20:29

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