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I'd like to know when to use "ideas on" and "ideas for". I think these are correct:

  • I'd like some ideas on how to improve my team.
  • I'd like some ideas for improving my team.
  • I have some ideas on that subject.

This feels less correct to me:

I'd like some ideas for how to improve my team.

This feels plain wrong:

I have some ideas for that subject.

However, I don't know why. Which phrase should I use, and when?

Edit: I'm specifically interested in the grammar breakdown — is that last one wrong because it's a noun? What about "how" — how does this change it? What are the rules?

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Cambridge Dictionary Online suggests these proposition for "idea":

If you have any ideas for what I could buy Jack, let me know.

That's when I first had the idea of start ing (= planned to start) my own business.

And about your example:

I'd like some ideas for how to improve my team.

sounds odd and wrong. After "for" a ing-clause is used and after "on" a relative-clause.

Ideas on what to eat to night

Ideas on how to learn

Ideas on where to go

And

Ideas for eating

Ideas for living

  • Yep, it seemed odd and wrong to me but I couldn't work out why. Thanks for including the "of"! That makes more sense now. Ta! – Lunivore May 20 '11 at 15:56
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    I'm not sure I agree here. Perhaps this is AE vs. BE. I would say that these are correct: "That's when I first had the idea of starting my own business." "That's when I first had the idea for starting my own business." "That's when I first had the idea for how to start my own business." The difference is that the second two refer to new, specific plans that were thought of to begin a business which was previously thought of. The first example refers to that time when the business idea was initially thought of. – bubbleking Mar 24 '16 at 16:48
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When you have some "ideas on how to improve my team," you have ideas relating to ideas on improving the team.

When you have "ideas for improving my team," you have ideas which specifically supports the team. For example, when you say

I am for peace-making

you are obviously supporting peace-making. In the same way, using "for" in ideas on improving the team means you support improving the team while using "on" doesn't necessarily mean so. It's all connotation and subconscious language use and effects.

  • Thanks @Third Idiot. I'm specifically after any grammatical rules which might apply. For instance, "I am on peace-making" is obviously wrong; the grammar makes no sense. "I have some ideas for that subject" also feels slightly wrong for much the same reason. Is there a grammatical reason for my unease? Thanks for the notes on connotation as that's something I'm also fascinated by. – Lunivore May 20 '11 at 9:47
  • I'm thinking aloud here a little bit. I might contend that "I have some ideas for that subject" would be better expressed as "I have some ideas about that subject" or "on that subject." However, if "the subject" has just been stated as "how to do something," I think you could get away with "for" as well, perhaps omitting "the subject." Take this example: Person 1: "I have no idea how we are going to implement those changes." Person 2: "I have some ideas for that." In my estimation, "for," "on" and "about" all work in this example. Just curious, who's speaking BE vs. AE here? I speak AE. – bubbleking Mar 24 '16 at 16:45

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