The United States has vowed to follow the Islamic State 'to the gates of hell' over the beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. (Aussie ABC)

When I consulting RHD’s ‘ON prep. #4, #12’ and ‘OVER prep. #19’, the two usages seem to denote ‘in connection with their complements.’ What’s the difference between the two? Is it degree of intimacy? The former has more closeness with its complement and the latter less, I mean. But this isn’t that persuasive on my own, for the victims of beheading are her very own citizens.


You have identified the appropriate sense of over, #19; but the key to this use lies in the example there, not the definition: ‘to quarrel over a matter.’ Over is used in this sense specifically when the complement designates the cause of disagreement or strife.

Wars are fought over religion, over political theories, over national identity—but mostly they are fought over money and land.

The sisters wrangled bitterly over who would get their mother's silver.

There was considerable debate in the summer of 1945 over the use of the new atomic weapon.

The extension of over complementation from verbs signifying conflict to similarly impassioned one-sided actions is fairly recent; it seems to be a particular favourite of journalists:

White Marine Beaten Severely by Black Men for Revenge over Ferguson Shooting —headline, Newsiosity

Mum's fight for justice over son's forestry death —headline, TVNZ

Rotherham: police need outside force to 'deliver justice' over child abuse, says Nick Clegg —headline, The Guardian

I cannot recall on being used in contexts like these.

  • So I’m “on” this side and you can see a problem “over” the conflict between me and my opponent on the other side.
    – Listenever
    Sep 4 '14 at 1:01
  • @Listenever Perzackly. Sep 4 '14 at 1:13

Substituting "on" in place of "over" would not be correct in this context. The important part of the #4 definition of on is "as a part or element of". "I am on the board of directors." The definition of "over" in this context is "about" or "concerning". "I was furious over the theft of my work." or "She clapped her hands with glee over the announcement."

In general, the phrasing is used to explain an action related to some event or thing.

  • I need to change 'ON pep. #4' to 'On prep. #4 or #12' - with respect or regard to. You can see 'on' is synonym with 'about' and 'over' 'here'. For all the consulting, still we can't use 'on' on the sentence?
    – Listenever
    Sep 4 '14 at 0:30

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