Specifically I'd like to know when you would say "at the behavioral level" and when "on the behavioral level." It feels like there is a difference, but I can't put my finger on it.

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    "At the level" is often used in a description of how high something is, while "on the level" is often used to described flatness or fairness. Both'll work behaviorwise. The phrasing feels different because of differences in usage in other contexts. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 13:19
  • Thanks. So, if I understand correctly, for the 'behavioral level' it does not matter? I don't understand the flatness or fairness part. Do you have an example? Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 13:59
  • Yes, does not matter in your context. Examps: "The deal that used car salesmen is offering me actually seems to be on the level" "Jessica usually lies about how rich she is, but today, when she said she couldn't afford bus-fare to Seattle, I think she was on the level". Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 14:24
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    @WayfaringStranger - You refer to the OP's context, however the OP hasn't given any context. Johannes, please say where and how you want to use these expressions. English is a context dependent language. Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 22:26

3 Answers 3


Google's Ngram shows that "at the [something] level" is more idiomatic than "on the [something] level":

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This is a lot like being "on a bus" as opposed to "in a car". If you are able to move around, then "on" is preferred, although there's a grey area for middle-sized conveyances, e.g.

  • He arrived on an A380.
  • He arrived on a Learjet. He arrived in a Learjet.
  • He arrived in a Cessna.

"At" fits into a scheme of movement, e.g. you get on an elevator and go up. You arrive at the fifth floor. When you step off the elevator, you are on the fifth floor.

For a general term like level it depends on context. If you want to emphasize that your description has moved from one level to another, use "at". If you are intending to talk at length about a level, use "on".

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    #Global Charm is coming close. One must accomodate the "on the level" idiom in an answer. Beyond that, there are at least a few common usages where at and on are interchangeable. #Global Charm, I think, hits on the right scheme by trying to identify when at and on are NOT interchangeable.
    – Mark G B
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 1:09

Well, first there's the idom "on the level," which means fair, not cheating, not corrupt.

"Can I trust him?" "Definitely. He's on the level."

"At the level" can mean "operating at this level of skill" - for example: At the level of softball my girls play, you're just happy they run from first to second without getting distracted by a passing butterfly.

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