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Fire (at, on, in, to) target

I saw the following sentence on Guardian.co.uk:

US navy fires on boat near Dubai port.

Is on being used here as a preposition to make a link between the fire and the boat, or is it part of the phrasal verb — if it exists — fires on?

Can you give some examples where on is being used like the one referred above?

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marked as duplicate by TimLymington, J.R., MετάEd, tchrist, Mitch Aug 9 '12 at 15:36

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If they had fired over the boat, then chances are they'd lower their guns, and then fire on the boat. –  J.R. Jul 16 '12 at 20:43
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Sorry J.R, but I can't understand the differences between fired over vs fired on :S –  utxeee Jul 16 '12 at 20:46
    
@utxeee if they fire over it, they've missed their target. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 16 '12 at 20:49
    
Fired on is like fired at; you aim at the boat. Fired over means you aim above the target, perhaps to give a warning shot. –  J.R. Jul 16 '12 at 20:52

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

It would technically be a prepositional phrase, not part of the verb since you could do without it. US Navy 'fires' 'on boat' near Dubai port. However, that would then mean they were on the boat when they were firing, which is assumed since it is the US Navy. Therefore, you're right, it would be verb phrase. US Navy 'fires on' boat near Dubai port.

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I don't think the 'on' in 'fire on' is acting as a preposition. If 'He fired on the boat' is parsed as [[NP he] [VP [V fired] [PP on the boat]]], that means that he fired, and the place he did it is 'on the boat'. And that's not the meaning. the meaning is he did something to the boat? What did he do to the boat? He -fired on- it. It's a phrasal verb here. –  Mitch Jul 16 '12 at 21:47
    
Fixed. You're right, and I totally changed the sentance when I diagrammed it! –  Arlen Beiler Jul 16 '12 at 22:04

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