1

There are two sentences below.

  1. I fell over the stone on my way over.
  2. I fell on the stone on my way over.

What is the difference between 'fell over' and 'fell on' in the two sentences?

  • "Fell on" means after you were done falling, you ended up on top of the stone. By contrast, "fell over" means after you were done falling, you ended up on the other side of the stone. There is a much stronger implication with "fell over the stone" that the stone, itself, was the cause of your fall (i.e. that you tripped over it). For more questions contrasting the nuances of English prepositions, please consider our sister site which covers this topic extremely extensively and in great detail: English Language Learners. – Dan Bron Jul 8 '15 at 8:08
  • I'm guessing that you tripped on or tripped over the stone. – Hot Licks Jul 8 '15 at 11:53
5

The different is not a nuance. These are two different verbs.

  1. to fall (intransitive) - This is the verb with the most general meaning. It means that the subject descends under the action of gravity.

  2. to fall over (intransitive) - This indicates that the subject starts in a metastable state (e.g. standing up) and topples whilst in contact with the ground. It ends in a more stable state (e.g. lying on its side)

  3. to fall over (transitive) - This refers to a moving subject that collides with an object and topples as a result. The final positions of subject and object are undefined.

Note that to fall on is not a phrasal verb. It is an example of meaning 1. The subject falls and comes to rest on top of the object.

  • 1
    Very clearly put and definitively settled! Also well done for pointing out that fall over is a phrasal verb, and that it has two distinct meanings. I can only give you one upvote, but I wish I could give you more. I'd give you +10 of you'd reference a particular dictionary for the sake of having an external authority to back you up, – Dan Bron Jul 8 '15 at 8:52
  • These were my own definitions so I couldn't quote a specific dictionary. Point taken however. Thanks for the vote and thanks for the feedback. – chasly from UK Jul 8 '15 at 10:21

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