Is there any difference in meaning between take someone and take someone on in the sense of fighting with the person? For example:

Usyk is an exceptional fighter. I'm not really sure if can really take/take on a much bigger opponent, like Joshua or Fury, though.

  • I think that most people would probably agree that prepositionless I could take him is far more "slangy" than I could take him on for the I'm confident I could beat him (in a physical or other "contest", such as a debate). BUT in your cited context they're probably not synonymous anyway. If Usyk can take Joshua, that means he can beat him - but in order for Usyk to take on Joshua, he only has to be good enough to put up a decent fight (with a reasonable chance of winning, which is all that's needed as a precondition for the fight to take place at all). Nov 1, 2020 at 17:32
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    (To take someone on = to fight them. To take them = to beat them.) Nov 1, 2020 at 17:34
  • I've just waded through 61 definitions of take in Collins dictionary, and they don't actually list the prepositionless slang usage defined at onlineslangdictionary as to defeat in a fight. Always used in a question or affirmation. So I suggest you avoid it. Nov 1, 2020 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


take someone on = challenge someone in some sort of contest. This is often used when somebody decides to take part in a match trying to defeat a strong opponent. It implies that it would be difficult to achieve but that the challenger is also of a reasonable standard and might have a chance:

I need a lot more practice before I could think about taking you on in tennis.

A variation of this can also be used when talking about tasks, implying that the task is somewhat burdensome.

I can't take on a new project right now because I haven't finished the current one.

take someone = (an informal phrase meaning) beat someone in a contest. This is probably more common when talking about future or imagined situations.

I think I could take you at chess. I've been playing a lot and you don't seem that good.

This isn't usually used about tasks in the same way as above.

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