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We are all familiar with the the rhyme:

Jack and Jill went up the hill.

The preposition 'up' describes motion from a lower level to a higher level. But the preposition 'onto' also describes 'motion'. Therefore, can we use the preposition 'onto' in place of 'up'?

Jack and Jill went onto the hill.

Is it grammatically correct? If correct, is there any difference in meaning?

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  • Jack and Jill went onto the hill is an extremely unlikely utterance, because onto refers to a (usually, horizontal) surface. In that context, adverbially defining where they went, whereas ...up the hill adverbially defines how they went (in an upward direction). May 12 at 12:09

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Up shows direction of motion. You can go up the hill from anywhere on it, even from the very bottom.

Onto shows motion to a place that is on top of something. The motion itself does not need to be upward. You can parachute onto a hill from above.

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  • Exactly as Colin says. You lift a cat up to place it onto a table. May 12 at 9:14
  • @RonaldSole She lifted the cat up to place it on/ upon a table. Can we use on/ upon instead of onto here? May 12 at 10:35
  • @Colin Fine, "you can parachute down a hill from above". Even "you can parachute into a town from above". Are these okay? May 12 at 11:16
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    @SandipKumarMandal Yes, on and upon are alternatives in this context. No, you can't parachute down a hill (you can drive, walk, cycle, ride, fall etc down a hill. But you can parachute on to a hill. And you can parachute into a town. To add from above is saying the obvious. You can't parachute from below . May 12 at 12:42
  • @RonaldSole, Thank you. It's now clear. May 12 at 13:05

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