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In the phrase:

...redirecting your focus on to what is working...

Why "on to" and not only "to"?

At first when I saw that phrase I thought the preposition ON was related to the verb focus, but at a second and third analyses I sort of notice that focus is not being used as a verb, but as a noun, so that explanation doesn't apply.

I thought then that maybe ON was related to the verb redirecting but couldn't find any instances when this preposition is used with that verb.

So my question remains, why focus ON TO, when only TO would have conveyed the same meaning?

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  • Is that text from a transcription of speech? It is just focus on and redirect someone to some other matter. In fact, if the focus is a physical object, it's fine. If it's an abstract, it's OK but not necessary. So, it is grammatical, in fact.
    – Lambie
    Aug 17, 2020 at 16:32
  • It is a transcription of a speech. But isnt't focus on a phrasal verb? And it is not the verb of the sentence so I still don't understand why use ON. Is it to give emphasis? Aug 17, 2020 at 17:18

1 Answer 1

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Speech is not always uniform or perfect or perfectly grammatical as one might expect it to be.

One phenomenon that occurs is switching horses in mid-stream (in the middle of a sentence)

  • Let's redirect our focus to the second list of issues.
  • Let's redirect our focus from or on viruses to bacteria.

Yes, one focuses on something. But that does not make focus followed by on into a phrasal verb.

  • What did you focus on at the meeting? means:
  • We focused on various subjects. on various subjects is a prepositional phrase.

So, no, it is not a phrasal verb per se. He focused the camera on the model. Thus: He focused on her. It is usually a prepositional phrase.and sometimes the phrase disappears: What did you focus on [at the meeting]? has this meaning = On what subject did you focus? Anyway, in speaking, I can see why a speaker might say "redirect your focus on to what is working". This is a typical phenomenon in spoken language.

A speaker might very well link to focus on [some subject] with redirect focus to something. It is not a mistake per se. In writing, it would probably be edited to to or on.

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  • (I realize this is two yrs old) In your second bullet point, "Let's redirect our focus from or on viruses to bacteria," I think some of that is meant to be an optional substitute, but it's not clear to me which part? I guess "... from [or on] viruses..." Btw, I suspect that the usage in the original question is actually thinking of "onto" (in which case, technically, it really ought to spell it that way...) Feb 23, 2022 at 20:20
  • @AndyBonner OR means: redirect our focus from viruses to bacteria OR redirect our focus on viruses to bacteria. "onto" would not be right here.
    – Lambie
    Feb 23, 2022 at 21:13
  • I thought that was what you meant. And agreed, "onto" is inappropriate, but I suspect it was what the original quote was going for (e.g. "direct your flashlight's beam onto this wall"), and they compounded the error by substituting "on to" for "onto." Feb 23, 2022 at 21:18
  • @AndyBonner I don't think the original quote had anything to do with an idea involving something physical like "onto the wall".
    – Lambie
    Feb 24, 2022 at 15:27

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