What are the differences between the following?
- He is planning to do something.
- He is planning on doing something.
When to use each?
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!
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:
- To intend to do something: plan to do sth, My boss is planning to retire at 50.
- 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.