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This question is originally posted on WordReference forum. My friend suggested me to post here to get more opinions on this question. I don't know if I am allowed to link to other site, so I am going to rephrase the question.

The original sentence is: My main focus is Spanish.

Someone corrected it with: My main focus is on Spanish.

Context: The person is learning multiple languages, but he/she is focusing on learning Spanish.

Is there any difference between the two?

Thank you in advance.

I did search on the site first as well. I found this response but the examples given use "focus" as a verb instead of a noun.

  • Used as a verb 'focus' would have to take a preposition - either 'on' or 'upon'.Used as a noun 'My focus is Spanish' is, in my view acceptable, but it sounds American to me. I think I would say 'My focus is on/upon Spanish'. – WS2 Mar 28 '14 at 7:16
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Both sentences mean about the same thing, though I think they're using different senses of focus. In "My main focus is Spanish", the word focus refers to the thing that is being focused on; in "My main focus is on Spanish", the word focus refers to the relationship of the person to the thing that they are focusing on. Using the definitions from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "My main focus is Spanish" is using sense 5a, "a center of activity, attraction, or attention", whereas "My main focus is on Spanish" is using sense 7, "directed attention".

Either way, the sentence ends up with roughly the same meaning. However, depending on the context and exact meaning, I think one could be preferable to the other. For example, I think "My main focus is Spanish" tends to preclude "My main focus is subject–verb agreement", whereas a person whose field of interest is already known to be subject–verb agreement could well say "My main focus is on Spanish" to indicate that their main focus is on subject–verb agreement in Spanish. But this is a very minor difference.

  • Bear in mind that the principal meanings of 'focus' are geometrical and scientific. Anything of the kind under discussion here is figurative and recent. Hence any rules regarding prepositional context etc. are likely to be vague at best. – WS2 Mar 28 '14 at 8:11
  • Sounds pretty focused to me. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 28 '14 at 15:50
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I agree completely with user: "WS2" and user: "ruakh". "My main focus is Spanish" lends itself to being quite definitive, meaning my goal is Spanish and it's the main objective. I'm dedicated to it, that's what I want to do above anything else. However, if you write, "my main focus is on Spanish" implies that you're also doing something else. For example: "I'm studying international diplomacy, and my my focus is on Spanish." As in, my interest lies in the foreign service in Latin America or Espana. And, I'll need fluency in Spanish to do that.

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