What are the differences between the following?

  1. He is planning to do something.
  2. He is planning on doing something.

When to use each?

5 Answers 5


The sentences are quite similar. They convey similar meanings. Without being overly technical (not that I'm capable of it), I suggest sentence number one sounds more definite than sentence two.

An appropriate comment coming after sentence one might be, for example,

"[He is planning to do something.] We are not sure what he is planning, but we know he's going to do something!"

Coming after sentence two, an appropriate follow-up comment might be,

"[He is planning on doing something.] We are not sure what he is planning, and we are not sure he will actually do it, but we are pretty sure he will at least make an attempt to do something."

In other words, sentence one is less "qualified-sounding" than sentence two.

The nonverbal aspects of the sentences, however, can affect the meaning and implication of the sentences. Let's say, for example, two people are whispering to each other in an audience that is gathered to watch a magician. The magician is on stage, and as he pauses briefly, as if to think what to do next, one person whispers to the other, with the nonverbal emphasis on the word something:

"He is planning on doing something!"

On the other hand, suppose the whisperer said, with an emphasis on the word do,

"He is planning to do something."

Which sounds more definite to you? If you say "Sentence two," you are probably well on your way to understanding the differences between the two locutions. If not, then I have failed to 'splain things well enough!

  • 2
    I disagree, though I have at least one coworker that agrees with you. My personal distinction is that when you "plan on" something, you take it into account when making your plans, and when you're telling someone about your plans, in all cases, you tell them what you "plan to" do. For example, I'm planning on your attendance, do you plan to be there?
    – ctb
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 18:21
  • @rhetorician don't you mean "sentence two is less "qualified-sounding" than sentence one ? I believe that's your whole point
    – adamency
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 18:23
  • @adamency: Good observation, but no, I don't think so. Qualifiers are words and phrases that add specificity to a sentence. Sentence one is more matter-of-fact than sentence two. Sentence two has more qualifiers in it than sentence one. Sentence two covers more area, so to speak, than sentence one. IOW, more factors enter the locution. Sometimes, of two sentences that say basically the same thing, the sentence that is more qualified simply has more words. I could be wrong, however. Again, thanks for your comment. Don Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 19:00

Although common usage may blur the lines, I believe "plan to" is used to communicate the plan itself, while "plan on" is used when describing the assumptions or predictions on which the plan is based or depends.


Here it is, the description is from Macmillan English Dictionary:

  1. To intend to do something: plan to do sth, My boss is planning to retire at 50.
  2. to think about something you intend to build or make, and draw a picture of how it will look 'plan on' (phrasal) [plan on (doing) something] to intend to do something or expect something to happen: We are planning on going to Australia this year. We hadn't planned on so many people coming.

The first sounds logical because is planning shows an action going to be performed in the future, thus the first part is correct and regarding the second part, to do something is the infinitive. On the other hand, on doing something does not sound logical.


The difference is in when the plan begins and ends.

"I am planning to cross the bridge" tells you that the plan comes to its end when the bridge is crossed.

"I am planning on crossing the bridge" tells you that the plan begins once the bridge is crossed. In other words you have made a plan that can only come into operation after you have reached the other side of the bridge.

  • I don't think that's accurate. If you say, "I'm planning on going to the game on Saturday," that doesn't carry any implication that you have a specific plan that begins after you get there---just that it's a thing you intend to do. Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 13:22

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