11

I have seen different prepositions after "Good luck". Example:

Good luck on/with/for your new job

Could you explain the possible differences of usage or meaning? Thank you.

10

The most common preposition paired with "good luck" is "to." The meaning is clear enough, but here are a few examples:

  • "Good luck to people selling rubbish plates, but for us it's nothing but bad news."

  • "It's just the way depression works. Meds will fix it. Good luck to you."

Next most common, according to some quick on Brigham Young University's English corpora (i.e., massive repositories of English texts) is "with." This matches my own sense of how the word is used. The preposition is used mainly with a specific thing, such as a job or plan. And of course, the sardonic "good luck with that" is popular. Some examples:

  • "Thank you so much for calling and good luck with making it all work."

  • "Good luck with, well, whichever career you decide you to follow."

"On" is very similar to "with" in meaning. I personally don't see a difference, even after looking up many examples of both words' use. One commenter suggests that "on" is used when only the result matters, whereas "with" is used when the process is more important. That doesn't seem to be true; maybe others would like to weigh in?

One clear case is when "good luck" is being combined with an existing idiom using "on." For instance, "Governor Huntsman, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck on the campaign trail." Otherwise, I'd say you can generally use with, as it is more common, and use "on" only when necessary.

Finally, "for" resembles "to" except that it's used much less frequently ("to" is about 8 times more popular) and expresses less of a wish and more of a statement of fact.

  • "Good luck for the passengers to have this pilot."
  • 3
    I’d say ‘with’ implies some kind of endeavour or action that relates to the person being wished good luck, whereas ‘on’ can mean the same or it can set the scene for a more generic good luck. For example, “Good luck with the campaign tour” is wishing someone that the campaign tour will go according to plan, whereas “Good luck on the campaign tour” can be seen as equivalent to “Good luck to you while you’re on the campaign tour”. The only instance I can think of where ‘with’ is mandatory and ‘on’ impossible is the sarcastic, “Yeah … good luck with that!” – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 31 '13 at 9:23
  • @JanusBahsJacquet That's all worth putting in an actual answer. – TrevorD Aug 31 '13 at 11:22
  • I'd say 'on' is much more common than 'to' because I hear/use 'on' multiple times per day (For example, good luck on your test), but I have heard 'to' maybe once or twice in my life. – Jsdodgers Aug 31 '13 at 16:14
  • I'm fairly confident that 'to' is more common overall than 'on' because the corpora are in agreement. But since they have different meanings, it's not terribly important. – A Brooks Aug 31 '13 at 19:26
4

Narrowly addressing the original question, you can say "Good luck on your new job" or "Good luck with your new job" but you cannot say "*Good luck for your new job." As shown above, "for" can only be used when the expression is not a wish.

I claim the distinction between "on" and "with" is that "on" wishes luck over a process while "with" wishes it on an outcome. Consider these cases:

"Good luck on that paper." I'm wishing him success writing the paper. "Good luck with that paper." I'm hoping his teacher takes pity on him.

BUT, if he's en route to class, paper in hand, then they mean exactly the same thing because almost nothing is left of the process.

I can say "Good luck with your boss" to a person who's having trouble at work, but I cannot say "Good luck on your boss" because the boss isn't a process. I could say "Good luck on getting that raise" though.

I would claim, then, that the reason you can't say "Good luck with the campaign trail" because the trail cannot be an outcome.

I think it is a pragmatic side-effect that using "with" when I could have used "on" implies that I think the result is out of the control of the listener. Tone of voice can strengthen this effect, as in "Good luck with that."

  • I find that this answer makes a serious effort to find a general abstract guideline to determine the right preposition. I'd like to hear more opinions about this approach and also how we define actually a "process". I get that a paper involves a process of submission and review. But I also imagine that the relationship with a boss is also the result of several interaction processess. What I get however is that "with" seems to have the power to put in doubt the outcome. While "on" does not. And that may also be another explanation why it is used in electoral campaign. Am I wrong ? – Pam Sep 1 '13 at 12:18
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    This is a place where it helps to have studied pragmatics a little bit. You can think of pragmatics as "side-effects" that result from things like choosing a less-specific phrase instead of a more-specific one. For example, if I say "John is a relative" you assume he's not a father, brother, son, etc. because if he were, I would have used the more specific term. Since "with" is the weaker term, the listener can assume I didn't use "on" because I didn't believe the person had any control over the process. – Greg Hullender Sep 1 '13 at 16:25
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"Good luck to" is directed at a person or thing.

"Good luck with [something or someone]" is wishing someone 'good luck' with a particular 'project'. It is sometimes used sarcastically to suggest that an event has little chance of occurring - "I want to be President of the USA." "Yeah, good luck with that."

I would not generally use, "Good luck on ...", unless it were a date or occasion. "Good luck on your birthday." "Good luck on Friday."

  • Would "good luck for your job search" work ? or it's still better to use "with" ? – Pam Aug 31 '13 at 10:53
1

"Correct" usage with regards to prepositions is tricky. Depending on where you live in the country, it's equally correct to say, "Next in line" or "Next on line."

0

In the UK, in is sometimes used as a preposition when wishing luck: "good luck in your exam tomorrow". And to disagree with Greg Hullender's answer above, in some instances for can be used too: "good luck for tomorrow".

I would have added this as a comment but can't.

  • Hi @fillo, Welcome to English Language & Usage. Please include some cited sources in your answer which back up the information you're providing. Answers demonstrating evidence of research efforts are preferred. Thanks! – freeling10 Feb 2 '17 at 21:17
  • Comments have rep limits for a reason. If you have a comment, please wait until you can comment. Commenting as an answer is not what you do. – Hank Feb 2 '17 at 21:21
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'Good luck on' is wrong in UK English.

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    Can you tell us why? – deadrat Dec 15 '15 at 7:33
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    Welcome to EL&U. Your post was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. It would be better if you could elaborate on why you think it is wrong in UK English. I would advise you to take the tour and visit our help center to see how it works here. – user140086 Dec 15 '15 at 7:52
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    As someone born and raised on Her Majesty's Isle, I have to disagree. – Matt E. Эллен Dec 15 '15 at 11:11

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