3

The National Records of Scotland said 49,863 births were registered in 2019, down 1,445 on the previous year. BBC - Scotland population decrease

I understand that the number of births this year is less than that of previous year. So, there has been 1445 less births this year.

"....on the previous year." caught my attention. Why is it "on"? Aren't we supposed to use "in" for years?

Also, considering that the sentence is making a comparison between this year and the previous year, I would also be fine with "....from the previous year."

So, why is it "....ON the previous year." when it is making a comparison between this year and last year? Should it not be "....from the previous year.?"

5
  • 2
    "from the previous year" would ALSO be correct
    – TenMinJoe
    Dec 5, 2023 at 14:49
  • 2
    Is this a British usage maybe? It sounds odd to me as an American. But to be clear, whether it's "on" or "from," both are shorthand for "when compared to." Dec 5, 2023 at 15:13
  • 1
    I get the feeling the usage is financial/statistics 'industry-speak'… but it's a tough one to actually try search for. Beats my usually black-belt google-fu into submission ;) Dec 5, 2023 at 15:46
  • 1
    With statistics and business, one often uses: year- on- year. Year-on-year, births are down by [number] It's somewhat British. AmE would say over. It's used to compare things over two periods.
    – Lambie
    Dec 5, 2023 at 16:11
  • 1
    Brits usually say "Up/Down on last year", but Americans are strongly committed to from in such contexts, as that chart shows. Dec 5, 2023 at 20:09

1 Answer 1

5

When making comparisons between two years, in BrE, it is idiomatic to say either … on the previous year or … from the previous year. Both are fully understood. Of course it does depend on the exact context.
Whilst you would say in such and such year when talking about something like a day or a date, your example applies to comparing birth rates not dates, so in is not appropriate here. "down 1,445 in the previous year" does not make sense in this context as it is saying the birth rate was less in 2018 which contradicts the beginning of the statement talking about 2019.

3
  • on the previous year or over the previous year.
    – Lambie
    Dec 5, 2023 at 16:12
  • As a native AmE speaker, "on" sounds particularly strange to me. It's to the point where if I heard it, I would assume it's either a mistake or some dialect- or industry-specific usage.
    – Hearth
    Dec 6, 2023 at 1:20
  • @Hearth It's common in BrE. There are lots of similar small differences between BrE and AmE. I've edited my answer to reflect this. Dec 6, 2023 at 12:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .