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In the hat season, while complimenting someone about their hats, do we say

The hat looks good on your profile picture

Or

The hat looks good over your profile picture

Both sound similar to me. Please advice the correct way.

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In your specific example

The hat looks good on your profile picture

would be the one to use since clearly the hat is placed within the boundaries of the profile picture

The hat looks good over your head on your profile picture
The hat looks good on your head in your profile picture

Would be longer ways of saying that the hat sitting on top of the user's head looks good

For the hat to be over the profile picture, it would need to be physically above the boundary of the picture even though technically the hat is placed above the picture in an image-layering sense

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  • Hmm, Interesting. So If fit the hat outside the profile picture it would be? – Bhargav Rao Dec 24 '15 at 13:19
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    Over, under, to the left, to the right of the profile picture. On the right side of the profile picture would still be within the boundaries of the picture. – Peter Dec 24 '15 at 13:25
  • How long should I wait before I can offer a bounty? – Bhargav Rao Dec 24 '15 at 18:50
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    @Cardinal yes it can mean the same thing interms of above and below, over is ambiguous in whether two things are adjacent to each other and usually means not touching, on top of usually means touching – Peter Dec 25 '15 at 6:52
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    To BhargavRao - Bounties are used when you feel like your question hasn't gotten a good answer, and you therefore want it to get more attention. @Cardinal - over usually means not touching (an umbrella goes over your head; that bridge goes over the river), but there are cases where the two can be used interchangeably, too (for example: put a new coat of paint over/on top of the old one). – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 10:42
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I'd say that on is a safe preposition to use. After all, in the same way we put paint on a canvas, we can superimpose an icon on a profile picture.

That said, over can be perfectly acceptable, too, particularly when the "hat" functions more like a mask than a hat.

Generally speaking, hats go on your head, and masks go over your face.

So, there's nothing wrong with saying either one, but which word works better might depend largely on how the hat looks, fits, and is designed to be worn. For example:

enter image description here enter image description here

I might be inclined to say that the blue flight cap looks good on my profile picture (because of the way it sits atop the orange), but that the Darth Vader mask looks good over my profile picture (since it is worn over the front of the orange).

Even the preposition in might work, when the hat is used more like an adornment than as a hat or mask. For example, it wouldn't be incorrect to say that this Christmas tree works "in" my avatar picture quite well:

enter image description here

(Unless, of course, you think the tree looks ugly. In that case, you'd be lying – but your preposition choice would still be acceptable.)

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  • Nice answer :) ... But why the half eaten orange? Competing with the apple logo? – Bhargav Rao Dec 25 '15 at 10:19
  • @BhargavRao - :^) No, not competing – but the resemblance is not just a coincidence. Have you ever heard the expression comparing apples and oranges? My SE avatar was inspired by that idiom. – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 10:23
  • Haha, nice. Hadn't heard about that idiom before. Reading the link now. Ty. :) – Bhargav Rao Dec 25 '15 at 10:28
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over suggest movement (like we flew over Santiago) or when you cover a big surface. In this case it's just a punctual thing so I think on fits best here because it's just a part of a surface.

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    -1 What do you mean by 'movement' or 'big surface'? Could you give some examples to flesh out your meaning? My hat hangs over his hat. His hand was over the pickle. Where is the movement or 'big surface'? – GoDucks Dec 24 '15 at 13:53
  • @GoDucks I said over works for a big surface since it doesn't fit in the context that the OP gave. – Alejandro Dec 24 '15 at 14:07
  • Where is the big surface in the two sentences in my last comment? I simply don't understand your statement. – GoDucks Dec 24 '15 at 14:11
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    This is a classic case of trying to limit the meaning of a preposition when the word is too versatile to do so. You can wear a mask over your face, for example, and that doesn't imply your face is "a big surface". Other examples where over is frequently used, even on just part of a surface: Put the pan over the flame. Hair can fall down over your shoulders. And you can wear a scarf over your neck. – J.R. Dec 25 '15 at 9:49

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