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Which of these two is more correct and why?

  1. The sun shines on my little tree.

  2. The sun shines upon my little tree.

From what I've read in dictionaries both are acceptable, however I would like to know if there are subtleties that might arise due to, for example, the context.

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The first is more common. The second sounds more 'poetic'. –  TrevorD Jun 25 '13 at 10:43
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What has your research told you? Please edit your question to show what you have found by looking in, for example, an online dictionary. –  Matt Эллен Jun 25 '13 at 10:43
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@MattЭллен The research indicates that the two are right and acceptable. I wanted to ask about subtleties not found in common dictionaries. –  Cinco Sauces Jun 25 '13 at 10:45
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@TrevorD Thanks, that's what I wanted to hear. –  Cinco Sauces Jun 25 '13 at 10:46
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@Marcus Antoninus: 'The research indicates that the two are right and acceptable. I wanted to ask about subtleties not found in common dictionaries.' That's going in my book of quotes. A beautiful and balanced attitude towards major dictionaries. –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 25 '13 at 16:45
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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The Macmillan Dictionary has this usage note regarding upon:

Upon is much more formal than on, but it can be used with the same meanings as the preposition on in the following cases:

  • on/onto an object or surface: It fell upon the ground.
  • supported by a part of your body: She fell down upon her knees.
  • looking at something: She fixed her gaze upon me.
  • happening immediately after: Report to the reception desk immediately upon arrival.
  • affecting someone or something: attacks upon our homes

Upon can also be used instead of on after particular verbs:

  • He congratulated me on/upon my success.

  • They insisted on/upon seeing you.

Also note that Macmillan tags the primary entry for upon as literary.

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protected by RegDwigнt Dec 4 '13 at 11:12

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