Can we use the phrases "pass a virus to someone" and "pass a virus on to someone" interchangeably? I am guessing the second example I gave below fine but how about the first one? I know that it is idiomatic to use "pass something on to somebody" when talking about a disease, but using it without the preposition "on" sounds off to me. Do you think either of the examples below is fine? I am guessing "...pass the virus on to..." is the only correct one even though the object is a virus rather than a disease.

  • Don't go to work if you feel unwell. You may pass the virus to the others.

  • Don't go to work if you feel unwell. You may pass the virus on to the others.

Context: I am talking to someone who seems to feel really unwell and so might have caught the Corona virus.

  • 1
    Both are completely equivalent and equally idiomatic.
    – d_b
    May 10, 2022 at 14:48

1 Answer 1


It is completely natural to say or write "pass the virus to {some person}". A fluent or native speaker would understand this with no problem, and might well say or write this. It is not particularly informal, and might well be used in a scientific paper as well as in casual conversation. If anything, I suspect it is in current usage more common than "pass the virus on to {some person}".

The two phrases are interchangeable. I don't even see any slight nuance of difference between them. There is no grammatical problem with either.

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