Trace over the dotted lines to complete the monkey's tail.

Can I say 'trace' instead of 'trace over'? Is 'trace over' a phrasal verb?

Please help me understand the uses of "trace over" and "trace", and difference between trace over and trace on.

Thank you.

  • 2
    Just explain what you found. Copy / paste links and information - from dictionaries, grammar sites... Look at other questions how they are written. Compare your questions to other questions - do they look similar?
    – virolino
    Mar 18, 2019 at 13:37
  • 1
    There are some examples of questions with enough detail in this answer to the Details, Please discussion. Explaining what you already know, and where you found the usage you're asking about helps us write better answers.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 18, 2019 at 15:43
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    @ColleenV - The most useful example for this particular instance would be Q6. Notice how the OP of that question explained what they found when they looked up the phrasal verb in the dictionary.
    – J.R.
    Apr 5, 2019 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


If I am guessing the context properly 'trace over' is probably the most appropriate description, rather than 'trace'.

I imagine this is from instructions similar to a join the dots exercise. Am I right?

If so, a better way to provide instructions would be to say:

Join the dotted lines to complete the monkey's tail.

However 'trace' is a verb commonly used to in children's drawing games. 'Tracing' is usually (in the context of children) creating a copy of an image by putting a semi-opaque piece of paper on top of an image, and then 'tracing over' the lines that can be seen through the top sheet.

However, in this context, the instructions are telling the reader to 'trace over' the dotted lines (literally draw a line on top of the existing dotted lines) to create a finished image. Because the instructions are to do something on top of something else, 'over' is the correct preposition to use.

It is not a phrasal verb. It is simply a verb followed by a preposition indicating where the tracing should be done in relation to the lines.

'Trace on' could also be used. In this context it means very much the same thing, but in other contexts something 'on' something would be touching the thing it was 'on', while something 'over' is often/usually a distance above and not touching.

For instance:

I am flying over the White Cliffs of Dover.

Means: I am flying in the sky above the White Cliffs.

I am flying on a magic carpet.

I am sitting on (touching) a magic carpet that is flying in the air.

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