Word Confusion: Based On versus On The Basis Of

Posted November 3, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This word confusion, well, phrase confusion, really, cropped up in a listserv to which I belong, and I thought I would explore it. And it continues to amaze me how particular English can be…or should I say, how particular grammarians are, lol.

Based on and on the basis of say the same thing. What makes the difference is that the former modifies nouns or pronouns while the latter is strictly for the verbs.

Phrases starting with…
based on modifies a noun or pronoun on the basis of modifies a verb
Based on extensive study, this genetic deficiency was attributed to the loss of one isozyme. On the basis of extensive study, this genetic deficiency was attributed to the loss of one isozyme.
Based on Jamieson’s theory on osteoarthritis knee pain, new methods evolved. On the basis of Jamieson’s theory, new methods evolved in the treatment of osteoarthritis knee pain.
Based on the molecular orbital calculations, a mechanism was proposed that can account for all the major features of alkali and alkaline earth catalyzed gasification reactions. On the basis of the molecular orbital calculations, we propose a mechanism that can account for all the major features of alkali and alkaline earth catalyzed gasification reactions.
The administration sent a document based on your suggestion.

Describes the nearest noun and indicates that you had something to do with the document’s content.

The administration sent a document on the basis of your suggestion.

Describes the verb, sent, and indicates that the idea of sending the document (rather than perhaps taking it in person) was yours.


  1. Green indicates the bas- phrase
  2. Blue indicates the noun or pronoun being modified
  3. Purple indicates the verb being modified

Word Confusions…

…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.

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Based On On The Basis Of
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; MacMillan Dictionary: based on; Merriam-Webster: basis; Dictionary.com: based; AGU Grammar and Style Guide; ACS Guide, p. 111
A sampling of ensign flags on a red ground

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Various military branches and civilians use variations based on their national flag to create ensign flags.

Unimog design study on the basis of the Unimog 5000. Built 2011, photo taken at exhibition IAA 2012 in Hanover, Germany.

“Unimog Design Study” is Spielvogel’s own work under the CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This sport model was designed on the basis of the original Unimog from 1946.

Part of Grammar:
Participial phrase (Past Tense Verb + Preposition)

Verbal phrase, intransitive & transitive

Present tense verb: base

Third person present verb: bases
Past participle: based
Gerund or present participle: basing

Prepositional phrase
Modifies nouns, noun phrases, or pronouns, but not verbs

based may also be followed by upon

To use particular ideas or facts to make a decision, do a calculation, or develop a theory

Verb, intransitive:
To have a basis

  • Be based

To have or maintain a base

Verb, transitive:
To make or form a base or foundation for

To establish, as a fact or conclusion

To place or establish on a base or basis

  • Ground
  • Found

To station, place, or situate

Starts a sentence and modifies verbs

A basic fact, amount, standard, etc., used in making computations, reaching conclusions, or the like
Verb, intransitive:
Fluctuating prices are usually based on a fickle public’s demand.

I believe they had been based on Greenland at one time.

The movie is based on a true story.

Your entitlement will be based on income.

Beaches is a film based on a novel by Pat Conroy.

Prices are based on two people sharing a room.

Green politics are based on the belief that the resources of the planet are finite.

Verb, transitive:
He based his assumption of her guilt on the fact that she had no alibi.

Our plan is based on a rising economy.

The prosecution’s case is based largely on evidence from ex-members of the gang.

The squadron is based on a carrier.

The company does not hire employees on the basis of their race, sex, age, or religion.

I suggest that we meet on a regular basis to discuss progress.

The nurse is paid on an hourly basis.

He was chosen on the basis of his college grades.

Phrasal Verb
on a daily basis
on a weekly basis
on a day-to-day basis
on a first-come, first-served basis
on a friendly basis
on a nightly basis
on a regular basis
on a rotating basis

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Ken Lay is courtesy of the United States Marshals Service and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons while “Bacon is Magic” is by Dave+Ayngelina.