Revised as of 12 October 2017
This word confusion is simple and complex. Simple when it comes to the keeping abreast of up on. Complex when distinguishing between the adverbs of up on and upon as well as its prepositional version.
The adverb version of up on feels more actively physical while either upon is more passive. In some instances, it’s almost abstract.
|Consider the following:|
|Mom, Johnny and Greg are ganging up on me!
Adverb as it modifies the ganging
|That oak will reach 80- to 100-feet tall upon maturity.
Adverb as the tree’s reaching maturity is a specified point in time
|You can’t just sneak up on us!
Adverb. It modifies the sneak
|Fall is almost upon us, and I am looking forward to hot ciders and beefy thick stews.
Preposition with fall very close
|Hang on, I gotta check up on my dogs.
Adjective as “I” is on a schedule or looking for information
|I took it upon myself to make some coffee since you weren’t here.
Adverb, as the target of an action
|One of these days, I am going to catch up on my rest!
Adverb, modifying catch
|With her prayers, a sense of peace descended upon her, and she was content.
Preposition for the peace that arrived
What I find most useful in determining which to use, is to isolate the sentence with up on or upon in it. Then read over the examples, all of them. Check out the definitions. It helps. What can I say, this is a tricky one.
…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.
|Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: up, upon; Wiktionary.com: upon|
|Part of Grammar:|
|Adjective; Adverb||Compound Word
Well informed about
Being up to particular standard or level especially in being up to date in knowledge
Being on schedule
In a high position or place
Toward the sky or ceiling
[Obsolete] On the surface
Being the target of an action
Incidental to a specified point in time or order of action
Used to emphasize something that is repeated many times
He was up on the latest news.
Jamie was caught up on his homework.
She hung a picture up on the wall.
He was set upon by the agitated dogs.
The clock struck noon, whereupon the students proceeded to lunch.
He carefully placed the vase upon the table.
She was seated upon a throne.
It was based upon two principles.
She was admitted to his office immediately upon her arrival.
Christmas is almost upon us.
That kind of behavior is frowned upon.
|History of the Word:|
|Before 12th century||1 First known use: 12th century
C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?
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Page 3 of The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright (archive.org) is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.