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In a certain film, America was at the brink of war at sea against Soviet Union. And then a fleet commander says

"Stand by to fire. On my count, Five Four, Three..."

On the other hand, in a plane, someone says to one who at the brink of a drop from the plane,

"On my mark three two one go!"

Does "On my count" have same meaning as "On my mark"? And what does it mean exactly? I mean, I want to know the meaning of "ON" in this sorts of sentences.

Someone answered me

Hmm, On my count or On my mark is a fixed expression. You normally say it like: "On your mark, get set, go." Its usually said in the beginning of the race.

But in the film, they said "my" not "your".

3 Answers 3

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They are normally equivalent.

On my count means I am going to count (down) and when I reach zero, you do what I told you to do.

On my mark means I am going to mark (indicate) the moment that I want you to do what I told you to do.

In both cases, the possessive is used to indicate that it is the speaker who will mark the start of the action.

That is not always the case; sometimes someone will say on three!, and then several people count together one, two, three - for instance when they are cooperating in a combined physical effort, the counting can help them coordinate their strength together.

On your marks refers to different marks: they are the markings on a track where the athletes should position themselves before a race. The_marks_ in on my mark is a marking of a point in time.

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As your informant told you, the basic expression here is on your mark (or marks) and derives from foot-racing. It is a the first of (typically) three commands given to runners at the start of the race and orders them to take a position at the starting line—the ‘scratch’ or ‘mark’. Here is an early description, from the 1890 Harvard Advocate:

From my window I often watch the hundred yard sprinters racing down the stretch on Holmes Field. As Mr. Lathrop gives the word “Get on your marks,” they stop their talking and laughing, range themselves along the scratch in the shade beneath the willows and with their long spikes begin pawing holes in the cinder-track to get a purchase for the start. “Set,” says Mr. Lathrop. The squad break in the knees and settle into their braces, with an arm outstretched before and behind. [...] I see a red flash from the pistol. An instant the starters tremble violently and, about as I hear the quick report, the men bound simultaneously forth.

On my mark appears to have evolved from this use in US missile services in the late 1950s. A 1983 historical novel suggests it was in use about 1960 to announce a countdown towards a time-synchronization:

“ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL.” The launch control officer’s voice broke over the loudspeaker, its flat, Victrola tones carrying across the small valley to their observation post. “TASK EIGHT, COUNTDOWN EVALUATION IS COMPLETE. ON MY MARK WE WILL PICK UP THE COUNT AT T MINUS TWELVE MINUTE. THIS IS PHASE ONE OF THE TERMINAL COUNTDOWN. PHASE ONE WILL BEGIN ON MY MARK. FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE, MARK. T MINUS ELEVEN MINUTES AND FIFTY-FIVE SECONDS.”

This is exactly paralleled by the earliest actual use I have found, from the transcript in NASA’s Results of the Third U.S. Manned Orbital Space Flight October 3, 1962:

   01 Z0 0l   CC    ... on my mark the ground elapsed time will be 1 hour, 30 minutes, 
                    and 10 seconds. Stand by. MARK. 
   01 30 13   P     I am exactly I second slow. Correction, I am 1 second fast


   03 11 39   CC    Let me give you a G.m.t. time hack; see how we are there at this time. 
   03 11 42   P     Yeah. That's probably all fouled up. Okay. You give it to me.
   03 11 46   CC    On my mark, I'm 15 27 00— MARK.  

It is clear that the racing sequence has been adapted. There is a semantic difference: mark now represents the target rather than the starting point, so it is the speaker’s mark rather than the hearer’s; but essentially the same sequence of commands is issued. ‘On my mark’ signals the hearer that countdown is about to begin; a ‘target’ timevalue (with an optional countdown) replaces the ‘set’ command; and ‘MARK’ replaces ‘Go!’ or a pistol shot. And the on my count example exhibits the same pattern: initial phase marked with On..., readiness phase, and target command.

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"on my mark" means that we are going to do something on my mark/signal. so, "I" am "mostly" count down the number like, 5,4,3,2,1,mark. and when "I" say "mark", in some case a rocket is launched or a plane is taking off.

"on your mark" means that we are going to do something on your mark/signal. so, "I" am waiting for your mark/signal before doing something.

speaking of track race, when the marker says "on your marks",it means that he is going to say "get ready/set" after he watches you are ready. You do not have to raise your hand or do anything, just prepare for the signal by him. And he will soon judge you are ready, and say "set", and a shot fired.

So "on your mark" is not only for track race, but the opposite meaning of on "my" mark.

This is what I learned and searched. Any corrections?

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    Is this meant as a genuine response to the question posted at the top, or is this meant to be a question and you are looking for feedback?
    – Em.
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 0:35
  • There is no definite answer so far. some say "on your marks" means only for track race or same kind of situations, and some say its not only for that. So I searched on the internet and this is what I learned so far. If there is something , corrections should be required. If someone show us a solid proof, it will be a definite answer. That is what I meant.
    – tomonori
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 7:26

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