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In the following sentence, could 'in' be possibly used instead of 'on'? Is there a difference?

Pamphlets were dropped on the city to warn the civilians to flee from the attack of their enemies.

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  • Dropped? I am thinking of disseminating them rather than dropping them. Were the pamphlets thrown/dropped from an aeroplane? Please clarify.
    – shin
    Sep 17 '15 at 5:22
  • Yes, it's from an aeroplane. Thanks for your response!
    – Faith
    Sep 17 '15 at 5:45
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Leaflets were dropped on the city to warn the civilians to flee from the attack of their enemies.

The preposition on is used to make clear that the leaflets were dropped from above: from an aircraft of some kind, most likely. Those who dropped the leaflets were not inside the city.

(I substituted "pamphlets" with "leaflets", since this seems more plausible)

Leaflets were dropped in the city to warn the civilians to flee from the attack of their enemies.

This would mean that someone who was inside the city dropped the leaflets. This would be a more dangerous task in a war situation, since one could be captured by the enemy in the city.


You can also use over instead of on:

"A US helicopter drops leaflets over a village near Hawijah in Kirkuk province, Iraq, on March 6, 2008" (Wikipedia Commons image)

enter image description here


And this is a picture showing leaflets being distributed in a city. "Wu Songtao, a college student from Zhejiang province tries to earn some extra money by distributing leaflets in Hefei, East China's Anhui province."

enter image description here


Teachers drop leaflets in the congress building in the Valparaíso Region, Chile (2011). The teachers are inside the building.

enter image description here

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  • 1
    That substitution provides clarity. (+1) pamphlets dropped may not be spread by air friction/resistance . I am over-thinking of course.
    – shin
    Sep 17 '15 at 5:30
  • 3
    With each photo, you are improving the answer! :)
    – Maulik V
    Sep 17 '15 at 5:43
  • 2
    @MaulikV - thank you, Maulik! A picture is worth a thousand words (and tens of thousands of prepositions)! (0: Sep 17 '15 at 5:57
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Something dropped on the city. It's clear that when you drop something 'on' something, it's from certain height (He dropped the chandelier on the ground).

Yes, it's dropping the literature/paper mostly from an airplane/helicopter. Check out the similar example

US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

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