I have a question about the verb phrase "put on". The sentence:

He put on sunscreen.

seems to be standard English. Would it okay to write "he put on anti-itch cream"?

  • @snailboat I corrected my error. So, "he put anti-itch cream" is not as common as "he put on sunscreen"?
    – meatie
    Oct 19, 2014 at 22:01
  • If you are asking about "he put anti-itch cream", that should be in your question.
    – user3169
    Oct 19, 2014 at 22:17
  • @snailboat I have a feeling that "to put on sunscreen" is a bit different from "to put on anti-itch cream".
    – meatie
    Oct 19, 2014 at 22:45
  • 1
    @user3169 I meant "he put on anti-itch cream", not "he put anti-itch cream". Sorry!
    – meatie
    Oct 19, 2014 at 22:47
  • @snailboat On a per-use basis, one uses more sunscreen than anti-itch cream. Could that be the reason that "put on anti-itch cream" sounds off?
    – meatie
    Oct 19, 2014 at 23:03

3 Answers 3


He put on sunscreen.

seems to be standard English. Would it okay to write "he put on anti-itch cream"?

Yes, it is 98% correct. Perfectly reasonable conversation:

"Did you remember to put on your anti-itch cream?"

"Yes, I put on my anti-itch cream!"

The remaining 2% is that it is more typical to say one puts a medication on a particular location of the body. As @TRomano points out, sunscreen is worn like clothing (also similar: scents such as perfume and cologne), but medication usually isn't. So we would say,

He put anti-itch cream on his hands.


He put anti-itch cream on his rash.

There's one big exception to this rule of thumb though: apparently we don't do this for medicinal products where the site of application is implied. "I put on chapstick" is correct, nobody needs it specified that you put it on your lips.


We put on sunscreen because it is a shielding layer. It's like invisible clothing, as it were.

We apply anti-itch cream because it's used after-the-fact, a remedy, not a prophylactic.


"He put on sunscreen" describes the activity. The sunscreen instructions might say "apply two layers" to describe how to properly accomplish the activity.

  • Could you comment on "put on anti-itch cream" as well?
    – user230
    Oct 20, 2014 at 5:09
  • I would say "put on some anti-itch cream" since to me the "some" implies small quantities. Oct 22, 2014 at 0:31
  • I'm sorry, what I meant to say was this: Could you please edit your answer so it addresses "put on anti-itch cream" as well? Right now, your answer doesn't address the question itself.
    – user230
    Oct 22, 2014 at 0:33

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