I've been raised listening to many telling 'mastery on' some subject. Muhammad Ali had mastery on various boxing tricks. Serena has mastery on tennis strokes. Shakespeare had mastery on English and so on...

This constructive comment made me think again. As I dig in the dictionaries, they all have 'of' preposition. This is very new to me. I shall use 'of' now on but I still find many examples that back my learning. I still feel that 'on' is not incorrect. 'Mastery on' is like having 'hands on', 'expertise on' and so on!

Dave also has a reputation as a fine songwriter and singer, in addition to his mastery on both electric and acoustic guitar from Connectstoughton (link not working independently)

Last year, 78 percent of AVID students at SSS showed mastery on the English II and math I exams from News and Observer

The idea that you might be able to demonstrate mastery on a certain subject, get credit for that from Hechinger Report

He’s taught master classes and clinics in more than 20 countries around the world, teaching jazz piano as well as sharing his mastery on producing and scoring music from Business Wire

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    I always thought it was "mastery of". Maybe it is "mastery on" in Indian English, which would make it not an error but just a variation. Interesting. We should do the needful and investigate the issue. (0: Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 5:23
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    A cursory check of Ngram viewer with the phrase shows that many have indeed used mastery on and it's not restricted to Indian English alone.
    – Mamta D
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 6:12
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    Mastery on is not wrong, but I have heard mastery of more often
    – Usernew
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 6:41
  • In the UK the second and third examples can be said, but the first and last examples would not be valid
    – Sammaye
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 14:15
  • In each of the examples above, I think their usage sounds very bizarre to my eastern US ear. In some of those examples you might say mastery "in", but "on" sounds completely weird. If I were an english teacher reviewing the above materials I would mark those phrases as grammatically incorrect and I would change them if I were proofreading for someone else.
    – Jason Bray
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments, there may well be differences among dialects, my own (Eastern US) definitely uses "of". However, I do not think all of your examples necessarily demonstrate the "mastery on" construct you claim they do. The third and fourth examples seem genuinely like cases where the construct holds, but in the first and second cases, this isn't necessarily the case.

The second one is the most concrete: the preposition is "on" because the sentence is describing how one performs "on a test". The performance is described as "demonstrating mastery" (of Math/English to the level expected by said test). To say one demonstrated "mastery of a test" would indeed sound somewhat unfortunate to my ear as it would indicate that one had mastered the test moreso than the material.

The first is similar, one describes someones performance "on a guitar". This one, unlike the previous, would sound right to my ear with either preposition though there is perhaps a slight difference in meaning insofar as "of" would refer to particular masteries of electric/acoustic guitars, while "on" would perhaps indicate a more generic musical mastery which was in particular on display via these particular instruments.

On the other hand, I would definitely use "of" in all the brief examples of the first paragraph.

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    Yes, I could not find many examples as I thought I would. But trust me, it has been always 'mastery on some subject' for me since my childhood. Quite unfortunate!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 5:56
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    +1 I would always use "mastery of". I agree that the second example isn't using "mastery on" in the same way; I would paraphrase the example as "78 percent of students showed mastery of the second grade syllabus on the English II and Math I exams".
    – AndyT
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 9:14

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