As both impose on and impose upon are of correct prepositions, what is their difference, let's say you are writing an academic essay.

  • I think impose on sounds academic already, BUT,
  • does impose upon more academic sounding?

Ex.1 Artists should have no limitations imposed on them.

Ex.2 Artists should have no limitations imposed upon them.

Is there any difference?


As noted by McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

impose (up)on someone:

to force something on someone. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.)

  • Don't try to impose your ideas upon me! The colonists tried to impose their values on the indigenous peoples.

Google Books shows that the preposition “upon” has been less commonly used in the last decades.

  • So "impose on" is not formal? Only impose upon? – John Arvin Jan 6 at 13:47
  • @JohnArvin - yes, it is more colloquial, but it can be used in formal contexts too. – user070221 Jan 6 at 14:07
  • @JohnArvin In this specific case, yes. It's a matter of formality. However, this answer is incomplete. In some cases, the two prepositions serve distinctly different purposes. For instance, you put on clothes but you never put upon clothes. – Jason Bassford Jan 6 at 16:32
  • @JasonBassford - the question is about impose on vs impose upon, and it is not incomplete. Put on/upon clothes is a different story and not what the OP is asking. – user070221 Jan 6 at 16:40
  • @user070221 A complete answer would give definitions of the two prepositions and put them into a broader context. This is only a basic answer. It doesn't go into explanations. I'm not saying it's wrong—but it could easily be expanded. – Jason Bassford Jan 6 at 16:44

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