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Examples:

I have decided on a blue carpet for the bedroom.
I have decided to emigrate to Australia.

What exactly is the difference between "decided on" and "decided to"? Is the usage simply based on construction of the sentence, or do they differ in meaning as well?

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Hello Sam! Adding to the excellent answer, I should also say that "making a decision for no reason" is probably possible since to decide something involves not only considering things, so decisions are a bit indipendent from prepositions! However, congratulations: +1 –  Elberich Schneider Aug 13 '12 at 18:52
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1 Answer

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I have decided on + object

I have decided to + verb

The usage is based on the construction of the sentence. You could say:

I have decided to buy a blue carpet for the bedroom.
I have decided on emigrating [or emigration] to Australia.

EDIT

As mentioned in John Lawler's comment, there is a subtle difference between the two. Decide to suggests that you have chosen a plan of action.

I have decided to emigrate to Australia.

I might have been considering staying at home, or I might have been considering other countries, but at any rate, this is what I am going to do.

Decide on suggests that you have chosen one from two or more options that you were weighing.

I have decided on emigration. I am going to Australia. (OR – I have decided to emigrate to Australia.)

I was considering England, Canada and Australia, but I have finally chosen Australia.

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Though there is a small wrinkle in the fact that they can both take complement clauses: on with a gerund (I decided on going to Australia) vs a normal infinitive (I decided to go to Australia). Generally, when compared, decide on invites the inference that the object is one of several possible choices, while decide to is non-committal -- sort of parallel to the difference between which and what in Which/What trip did you take? –  John Lawler Aug 13 '12 at 16:18
    
Thank you for that @JohnLawler -- I will edit accordingly. –  JAM Aug 13 '12 at 18:25
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@JAM, "decide on" can mean "decide in favour of X" (see John Lawler and your edit) or "arrive at a decision about X", as in decide on admissions criteria. "decide on" selects a N, V-ing, wh-CL, and wh to-INF. –  Alex B. Aug 13 '12 at 23:02
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