Unleashing dogs into the crows or onto or on? Are all of these grammatical? I think I see on most often, and then onto and sometimes into, but I think into is not grammatical. Am I correct?

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    We usually speak of 'setting dogs on someone/something' (release them in order to attack), but I suppose you could release dogs into a flock of birds. Feb 20, 2021 at 9:16
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    We also talk about 'setting the cat among the pigeons'. I have never seen this done literally, although, urban plague that pigeons are where I live, I often wish I could. Feb 20, 2021 at 11:09
  • Most people would never think of siccing / sicking a dog on some crows. So this is a fairly pointless question, because if we're not used to thinking about the activity itself, we can't have a generally-accepted concept of which kind of metaphoric imagery to invoke (surface, container, or distance metaphor?). Feb 20, 2021 at 13:40
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    @MichaelHarvey: I don't know about "most", but I did go to the trouble of putting up both spellings and a link to the definition for what I'd like to hope would be a minority of ignorant Anglophones. And I take it for granted most learners wouldn't know the usage, but it's certainly common enough that they could usefully commit it to memory. Whatever - I never heard of siccing dogs on crows. What would be the point? They'd just fly up out of reach until the dogs gave up. But they're vicious, so they might attack and injure your valuable hunting dog if you're not careful! :) Feb 20, 2021 at 14:22
  • @MichaelHarvey: I don't know what you mean by that. I linked to Merriam-Webster's definition for the verb they write as sic (with both siccing and sicking as valid participle forms). The full OED only lists it under sick (as a separate entry from the one meaning "vomit"), but they cite examples with just about every possible spelling (plus a few you might think aren't possible). They say nothing about any US/UK split (for spelling or anything else) but it does seem to be true that Americans are at least more likely to use the rather odd-looking cc orthography. Feb 20, 2021 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


It would be - "unleashing the dogs onto the crows"

I will start by explaining the difference between in and on."on" is used when something is positioned above something else or on the surface of something."in" is used when something is inside something or surrounded or enveloped by a thing.

e.g Lie down on the floor

The painting is on the wall.

I am in my room

The difference between on and onto is that onto suggest a movement towards something( in and into also has the same difference except that "onto" is used for movement on the surface and "into" in used when a thing is getting surrounded or moving into a thing)


We climbed onto the building's roof

I stuffed the sweets into my mouth

The above definition clearly suggests that onto is the right choice here.

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    It's lie down on the floor (unless you lay something on it)! Feb 20, 2021 at 9:11
  • My bad.I knew the difference between lay and lie.Was a typo! Feb 20, 2021 at 9:24
  • Your understanding of these prepositions is solid but prepositions in English do not follow any consistent rules. All three work and will be understood. The dogs most likely will never be on the crows nor will they move onto the crows. Technically, they will be amid the crows but that preposition is not idiomatic when calling for the hounds to be released.
    – EllieK
    Aug 10, 2022 at 20:41

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