Prepositions in English: ABOVE, OVER, ON, ON TOP


Hi. I'm Adam.

Welcome to

In today's video we're going to look at the difference between the prepositions:

"over", "above", "on", and "on top of".

Now, in many cases you will find or you will hear native English speakers mixing these up.

They're... In some cases they're interchangeable.

If you use "over" or "above" or "on", everybody will understand you, the idea will be clear,

the image of the situation will be clear, but there are certain situations where you

must use one or the other.

So, we're going to look at all of these and I'm going to give you the specifics, and then

I'm going to give you some more sample sentences to see where they can be interchangeable and

where they can't.


So: "over", when do we use "over"?

So, first of all, all of these prepositions talk about a higher position.

When we use "over" we're generally speaking about the movement of something higher.


So: "The clouds moved over the city."

What does this mean?

It doesn't mean that the clouds came and then just stayed there.


"Over" means they came and they passed, and they kept going. Right?

So we always have that idea of movement when we're talking about "over".

The sheep jumped over the fence.

They didn't jump above the fence, because then they would just be stuck there.

There's the fence, there's above, the sheep is in the middle of the air.

Sounds a little bit strange.

So they jumped over the fence, with movement.

We use "over" with numbers.

Basically, it means more than, but we use it specifically with numbers.

I think you got my message there.

I'm going to have dirty fingers later, but that's okay.

There's soap.

More than.

"Over 100 people came to the party."

Means more than 100 people came to the party.

So, sometimes you'll see something like this: "100+" it just basically means "over", or:

"100+ people came".

We use this with numbers.


"To cover something" means to put something on top of, but it doesn't necessarily have

to be one on top of the other.

It just means to cover, to put some sort of protection on something.

So: "Put a hand over your mouth when you cough."

[Coughs] That's my pen thing.



We also use "over" as a prefix with nouns, adjectives, or verbs sometimes to, again,


The idea is more than, but it's also in terms of the verb it means extra, beyond what is

normal or beyond what is necessary.

So, if someone is "overweight" means they have too much weight.

Okay? Obese.

Not necessarily obese.

Obese is even more overweight than overweight, but again, not thin.

To "overestimate", so you have to guess a certain level of something.

So I think there will be 100 people at my party, but I overestimated.

What does that mean?

It means that only 75 people came, so I guessed too far.

I reached too far with my guess.

"Override" basically means take control of.

So if I...

If a system, whatever system we're looking at is controlled by a computer, I can override

the computer, I can basically put my power over the computer's power-higher than, stronger

than-and I can take control of the system.

"Overzealous", too much zealous.

So, another way to think of it is "too".

"Zealous" means like eager, really wanting to do, really have a very focused motivation

for something.

If you're overzealous, you have too much of this thing, above the normal level.

So, now, speaking of the normal level: "above".


Two ways to use this.

One is, of course, in terms of like physical relationship.

Something is higher in relation to something else.

But generally it is on the same plane.

Now, what does "plane" mean?

In terms of space, something is on a same line I guess you could say.

Right? If you have a wall, so something is above something on the wall.

So, "over" is listed above "above" because they're on a flat plane, on the flat whiteboard,

one is higher than the other.

Now, if we go back to the clouds: "The clouds lingered above the city."

"Lingered" means basically hung around or stayed for a little while.

So here came the clouds.

Everybody thought the clouds would go over the city, but the clouds came and then they

just sort of lingered above the city.

Here is the city, here are the clouds.

They're on the same plane, on the same general area of space.

One is higher than the other.

So that's the most common use of "above".

We also use "above" when we refer to a higher position than a reference point.

Now, what is a "reference point"?

Means the point by which we compare everything to or that we relate everything to.

So, if we talk about average...


Let's say we're talking about the house prices in the city.

The average house price is half a million dollars.


We look at all the houses that have been sold in the last little while, the most, the least,

etc., we add them all together, divide by how many houses, and that's your average.

So from this average if a house is selling for 700,000, it is above average price, above

average cost.

If it's selling for 300,000, it's below average.

We're going to look at "below" in another lesson.


"Above average", "above freezing".

Now, "freezing" basically means zero degrees.

So although zero is a number, it's not the same as this number.

It's a point, a point on a scale, a temperature scale.

Zero is freezing, then plus one, plus two degrees, minus one, minus two degrees.

Celsius, of course, I'm talking about.

"Above expectations".

So, for example, I hire you to work for me.

I'm the boss.

I have certain expectations.

This is where I expect you to work or certain standards.

If you work at this level, more than I expected, then you have gone above expectations.

Okay? And I'm very happy about that, of course.

Lastly, we have "on" or "on top of".


They're basically more the same.

"On top of" is on, on something usually.


We talk about in relation to something, so you're always going to have an object, but

most commonly you have a surface.


So put the books...

"Put the book on the table."

Here's a table, put the book on it.


Now, if I have a table and I have some books on it:

"Put the books on top of the books on the table."

So I'm not going to use "on, on" twice.

I'm not going to use "on" twice to relate to something.

I'll use "on" for one, I'll use "on top of" for the other.

And "on top of" usually has the idea of touching.

So something is touching something else, but it's higher than it.

"Above" there's space, "on" usually no space or "on top of" there's no space.


So, again, these are the specifics.

Now we're going to look at a few sample sentences to see where they're sometimes interchangeable,

where you can use one or the other and get the same meaning.

Okay, so we're going to...

We're going to look at a couple of sentences, or three sentences actually to show you that

sometimes they are interchangeable.

So, you have a little fireplace where in the winter you have a nice fire,

you have a nice painting.

"Let's hang the painting over the fireplace.",

"Let's hang the painting above the fireplace."

In this case both would be acceptable.

People use either one interchangeably.

The idea is very clear.

Now, technically, "over" there's nothing moving, but we use "over" to mean when two things

are very related and stationary as well.

Do you want to use it?

That's up to you.

If you don't, "above" is okay.

Keep in mind people do use "over" regularly in these situations, and therefore it's acceptable.


"Can you please put a blanket over my legs?"

I'm lying down, I'm cold.

Can you put a blanket over my legs?

Means cover.

So we said, like, cover your hand when you cough.

Cover my legs.

Same idea.

Or: "Put them on my legs".

So I'm lying down, just put it on top.

Okay? Now, I just want to show you another use of "on top of", a very common expression:

"On top of all my other problems, I have a new boss to deal with."

So now technically there's no thing here.

A problem is an abstract noun, it's just an idea.

But you can stack things, one on top of the other.

So when you have a pile, one goes on top of the other, you can do this with imaginary

things as well.

Another way to think of this:

"In addition to all my other problems, I have another one."

But we use this very commonly because it's like my problems are stacking up.

Okay? But the same idea, something on top of something else, touching.

Touching, making a pile.


So that's basically it.

So, more or less...

Again, if you sometimes mix them up, don't worry about it.

Whoever you're speaking to or writing to will understand you most likely.

However, certain situations need the specific preposition that they need based on what we

looked at just a while ago.

So practice these, get comfortable with them, and use them as you would.

So, I hope this was all clear and I hope you enjoyed this lesson.

If you did, please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven't already.

If you have any questions, go to and join the forum.

I will be happy to answer your...

All your questions there.

There's also a quiz testing your knowledge of "over", "above", "on", "on top of".

And, of course, come back again soon, watch our next videos, and enjoy.


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