What's the Difference between On, Over, and Above?

by Kanchan

Can you please explain the differences between on, over, and above?


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Mar 12, 2013
by: Chelsey

These three words are prepositions. The words have similar definitions and can sometimes be used as synonyms for each other.

You can read all about using these words as prepositions by following the preposition link above.

To answer your question, let us look only at the definitions that are similar.


1. covering something; part of the surface

This definition tells us that on means that one thing is covering something else. It usually touches the surface. Sometimes it is part of the surface, like putting butter on the surface of toast.

• Most people put butter on their toast.
• Put your jacket on before you go outside.
• I wear my grandmother's ring on my left ring finger.

Over and above would not be used in place of on with this definition.


1. covering; on top of

This definition tells us that over means that one thing is covering or laying on the top of something else.

The definition is very similar to on. On is often used in place of over when it means “on top of.”

Over also suggests movement or covering a larger area, such as driving over a bridge.

• She is wearing a sundress over her swimsuit.
• We flew over the Grand Canyon. (Over would suggest movement from one side to the other.)
• Lay the blanket over his legs. (Lay the blanket on his legs.)
• I put my hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. (I put my hand on her mouth.)


1. in a higher place; over

This definition tells us that above can sometimes mean the same thing as over.

However, above is usually something that is higher than something else, such as a tree above a yard. It also usually specifies a certain position.

• We are above the Grand Canyon.
(Above suggests we are currently above the Grand Canyon.)
• Ben lives above the pizza shop. (His apartment is located on top of the pizza shop.)
• A president is above a vice-president. (The president outranks the vice-president. He is higher than the vice-president.)

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