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He prides himself on his singing.

A restaurant that prides itself on speed of service.

She prides herself on being a good listener.

What does 'on' mean when it is collocated with 'Pride oneself'?

As far as I guess at its meaning in such context, I think it would only mean 'supported by' as in

He prides himself supported by his singing.

I wasn't able to find any other meanings of 'on' which would be well fit with the idiom.

  • I don’t think it means anything as such. The verb is “to pride oneself on”. Whatever follows is what makes one proud. “To pride oneself” is never used on its own without the “on”. – MotherBrain Sep 29 '18 at 8:07
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    On means about. It explains the reason of the pride, so "he prides himself on being a good listener" means the reason of his pride is being a good listener. Similar is "I congratulated him on his new job" where on explains the reason of the congratulation. - I'm not a native speaker of English, so you might as well take this with a grain of salt. – Sara Sep 29 '18 at 8:12
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    @Sara - This native speaker thinks you explained it very well. Change that to an answer and I'd upvote it. – J.R. Sep 29 '18 at 13:09
  • @J.R.♦ Then, even if the sentence is rewritten as He prides himself about his singing., does it convey the similar meaning to the original sentence ? I think it could be correct because I found out on google quite a few sentences in which "about" is used, though I don't know whether they were written by native speakers. But for a semantic reason, 'on' is way more preferred to 'about' in use? Could you explain why 'on' does prevail? – Glittering river Sep 29 '18 at 14:37
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On means about. It explains the reason of the pride, so "he prides himself on being a good listener" means the reason of his pride is being a good listener. Similar is "I congratulated him on his new job" where on explains the reason of the congratulation.

On is certainly the best and safest choice. I'm not sure if about would be considered correct in this context. Now, you might ask, why does this expression sound natural with on but not with about? The answer is: It is just the way the language is, and this can be said of almost any other language. Often times, why a single word collocates with another is based on practice rather than reason. However, it can be argued that on is better here because it has the additional nuance of basing his pride on being a good listener. So, it not only means about but it also tells us about the foundation of his pride.

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    You’re right, some combinations are just more idiomatic than others. I might say, “He will talk about computer security,” or, “He will give a talk on computer security,” or, “Let’s talk about computer security,” but I don’t think I’d ever say, “Let’s talk on computer security.” But this is less about the meanings of individual words and more about familiar collocations. – J.R. Sep 30 '18 at 14:02

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