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Lately, I have been trying to figure out the difference between these two phrasal verbs when used with commercials

To put something IN a commercial

To put something ON a commercial

And I still have not grasped the difference between IN and ON when used with put in these situations

Could you point out the difference?

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  • put in a commercial is not a phrasal verb there.
    – Lambie
    Dec 14, 2021 at 16:51

2 Answers 2

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First of all, almost all phrasal verb + particle combinations can be used non-phrasally.

For example:

I kicked out my ex-wife = I compelled my ex-wife to leave.

I kicked out the wall = I kicked the wall which caused it to be removed partially or completely.

The meanings will depend on context.

Put on X means to wear X. This works if it's expressed as put X on.

Put in X for/on Y means to contribute X towards Y. Put X in Y doesn't usually mean this though.

So both your examples are not a phrasal put - it's just put being used normally.


That being said, you might what to know the difference between in and on. They don't mean anything substantially different in your examples and I'll explain.

X is in Y if it's surrounded on all sides by Y. This can be in a 3D sense where you are in a room or box, or a 2D sense where you are in an area or something delineated by lines, or even a 1D sense where a point is in a line defined by two other points. If Y is a container, something can be in Y.

X is on Y if it overlaps Y physically and Y is below/behind X. So you can sit on a chair, walk on the ground, etc. *On Y" is also used if we physically do something to the surface of Y, so you'll apply makeup on your lips, draw on the sidewalk using chalk, or paint on the side of a building.

So why can we say "in a commercial" or "on a commercial" and mean the same? It's because multiple models work with the concept of a commercial.

  • A commercial has "borders" - a start time and an end time, and various clips and such will make the commercial. So it's a container, and therefore content can be in it.

  • Is a commercial a "surface" things can be laid on? Yes - a creative person might think of a commercial as a blank slate or canvas on which things are placed.

So that's why in and on both work.

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This question would be greatly helped by actual examples. It is difficult to come up with a realistic scenario where "put on a commercial" would arise.

They put his endorsement in the commercial

simply means

They added his endorsement to the content of the commercial.

Nor is "put his endorsement in a commercial" include the phrasal verb "put in." The verb is simply "put."

There is a phrasal verb of "put on" that means to "present," particularly in the context of presenting a play on stage.

They put on "Much Ado About Nothing"

means

They presented the play called "Much Ado About Nothing."

I have never seen that usage with reference to a commercial, but I suppose it's remotely possible.

Of course, "put" is also a stand-alone verb that can take various prepositions, including "on."

They put the commercial on television

does not involve a phrasal verb and means

They displayed the commercial using the medium of television.

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  • In addition to to put on = to present, there's also He's just putting you on (=teasing). But I don't know if there are any native speakers who reduce upon to just on in the context of I don't want to put upon you (=to impose, be a burden). Whatever - to my mind, these are "real" phrasal verbs, whereas OP's cited usages aren't. Oct 11, 2019 at 14:59
  • Yes. I missed that one. It is not that common in the U.S., but it is far from rare. Oct 11, 2019 at 17:17

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