If I say, "the choice fell on me", does it mean, "It became my responsibility to choose among the options available", or, "I was the one chosen to do something"?

The phrasal verb to fall on, usually means to become someone's responsibility (see meaning 4). Yet, to fall means also to occur (see meaning 4)

To give a context:

I'm telling a friend about a discussion I had with my flatmates on who should wash the dishes. And I say, "eventually the choice fell on me." Does it mean, "I had to choose who should wash the dishes", or, "I was chosen to wash the dishes"?

  • 1
    Could you provide the context in which you read this? It sounds as if someone is confused about the idiomatic expression, as I think it's normally "the choice fell to me". A different idiom uses "fall on"
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 6:19
  • I added a context
    – Fra
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 6:26
  • 1
    As @Andrew said, fell to would unambiguously mean that the choice was yours to make. Based on "flatmates" I assume you're looking for BrE, but for what it's worth I do sometimes hear people say that a choice fell on them with the same intended meaning here in my part of the US -- perhaps the burden of deciding rests on their shoulders?
    – A C
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 7:26
  • Yet, on ngram "the choice fell to me" is not even found. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Fra
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 7:31
  • The is precisely the problem with ngram. In English, a choice falls to this or that person or group.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 13:38

3 Answers 3


"The choice fell on me" sounds odd, as the more common idiom is "The choice fell to me", meaning that I was the one required to choose.

Since no one else would do it, the choice fell to me to decide what color to paint the house -- a thankless task, since no matter which color I picked I knew someone would object.

However, I don't think it's wrong as much as rare. I found a couple of results in older scientific journals:

In regard to Streptomycin the committee's choice fell on Selman Waksman, the bacteriologist who had ascertained the effect unambiguously and also published it.

For insulation, the choice fell on expanded rigid polyvinyl chloride, usable in sandwich form ...

From context it's clear the phrase means that whatever the choice fell on is what was chosen, not what did the choosing.

However, I recommend against using this idiom as it may be confusing. When no actual choice is involved, you can use the more common, "it fell on me" (as in your linked definition) to do something, meaning that you were forced to do it by lack of other options.

After a week I couldn't even see the kitchen counter for all the piled-up dirty dishes, and we were completely out of clean ones. Since clearly none of my roommates would do it, it fell on me to do the washing-up if I didn't want to live in squalor. But I vowed I'd make them pay for it ... somehow, someday.

  • What would you recommend, instead of 'the choice fell on smb', if I want to put the chosen person at the end to emphasize the identity of that person? Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 20:08

From the examples provided on google

The choice fell on a Japanese painting, lovely in colors, and depicting busy people.

The choice fell on this truncated manipulation sequence for reasons of maximal reproducibility between the two investigational centers

it implies choice fell on sth means sth was choosen


Just because something appears on Google does not mean that it is correct English. There are many, many things published in academic journals that are written by foreign scholars and never edited by a native English speaker. The sentence above about Japanese painting is gibberish, and the phrase "investigational centers" in the other sentence should tell you everything you need to know about the writer's level of English proficiency.

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