"The 20 marks are distributed as follows: (10 marks on grammar and 10 marks on vocabulary)". Shouldn't we use "for" instead of "on" and delete the parentheses?


You're right that the parentheses are out of place; a parenthetical expression is subordinate to its containing clause, meaning that the sentence must remain valid if the entire parenthetical phrase is removed. if you do that here, you're left with "The 20 marks are distributed as follows:", with nothing following. You can correct this structural problem by removing the parentheses.

In American English we would expect to see "10 marks for grammar" rather than "10 marks on grammar". "On" versus "for" can be a little tricky when you're talking about allocation. For example, we spend money on or for things but allocate money for things (not on things). In your case, you're allocating points on an exam for particular categories.

The fact that you're saying "marks" where I would have expected "points" makes me suspect that you're using a different dialect of English. I don't know if there are dialects where "on" would be used here, but I don't know of any. Using "for" should be correct in all English dialects.

I would write this as:

The 20 points are distributed as follows: 10 points for grammar and 10 points for vocabulary.

Or, more succinctly:

The assignment1 is worth 20 points, 10 for grammar and 10 for vocabulary.

1 Or problem or exam or whatever it is that has 20 points/marks.

  • Thank you very much. By the way, this sentence was written by a non-native speaker. You have said that the preposition "on" is not used in American English. Does that mean it may be be used in other standards? – mido mido Dec 22 '15 at 15:59
  • @midomido unfortunately I don't know if there are dialects of English where "on" would be used -- I don't know of any, but I don't want to say none exist. As far as I know "for" is never wrong, so I would opt for that. (I'll clarify my answer.) – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '15 at 16:05
  • Glad to help @midomido. If this answer meets your needs you could accept it (so other people will know you're satisfied), but it's also totally fine to hold out for something better. – Monica Cellio Dec 22 '15 at 18:48

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