Upon vs. On

shatilof

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What difference does it make for a native speaker when they hear e.g. The smile on your face vs. The smile upon your face?

The real question is of course broader: when/why longer prepositions are used instead of their shorter forms? Does it sound more sophisticated? Is it just the same?

Thank you in advance.
 

bhaisahab

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'The smile upon your face' is unnatural.
 

shatilof

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shatilof

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emsr2d2

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I can't think of any context in which "upon" has to be used instead of "on".

He put the cup upon the table = He put the cup on the table.
It depends upon what he decides to do = It depends on what he decides to do.
He stood upon the egg = He stood on the egg.

In each case, "on" is more natural.
 

shatilof

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What about stuff like:

He climbed upon his horse and rode off.
There is a television antenna upon every house in the neighborhood.
The enemy was upon us and our soldiers had little time to escape.
 

emsr2d2

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In the first, I'd use "onto".
In the second, I'd use "on".

However, you have found an example (with your third sentence) in which "upon" is the standard use. Well done!
 

shatilof

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Could there be a difference between AmE and BrE?
 

emsr2d2

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Possibly. You'll have to wait for some responses from AmE speakers.
 

andrewg927

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As an AE speaker, I find upon and on almost interchangeable (you can't replace upon with on in "once upon a time). However, I consider upon a lot more formal than on. If you want to write a story, upon is fine but on is much more conversational. Regarding your examples, all are okay with upon but again on is much more common because it is less formal.
 

jutfrank

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upon is a bit more formal, more old-fashioned, and a bit more poetic (hence the song lyric) than on.
 

GoesStation

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I almost never say upon.​ I use it in writing though.
 
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