2

What is the proper word to use in the following sentences:

Example 1:

  • "When receiving a package, check the mailing address to ensure..."
  • "Upon receiving a package, check the mailing address to ensure..."

Example 2:

  • "Then, when receiving a package, check the mailing address to ensure..."
  • "Then, upon receiving a package, check the mailing address to ensure..."

What are the rules associated with when I should use "Upon" vs "When" in similar sentences to the example?

  • 3
    "Upon" in this context is now rather stiff and old fashioned. I see no other difference. – Colin Fine Jan 14 '16 at 19:32
  • 2
    What @Colin said. More likely phrasing today would be On receipt of a package... – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '16 at 19:51
  • Hmm, I don't find "upon" old-fashioned or stiff. This may be a regional thing. (I'm in California.) That being said, I find both words acceptable in this context. – Brian Tung Jan 14 '16 at 21:01
  • You guys are brilliant. Seriously. Every time I've asked a question on this exchange I've gotten back so much information than I thought was possible. Love it. – Eddie Jan 15 '16 at 0:09
5

Practically-speaking 'when' and 'upon' are usually used to mean the same thing.

When you get the parcel... means, effectively, the same as On receipt of the parcel...

But they are not the same.

When (in reference to a definite actual occurrence or fact) means at the time that, on the occasion that. (OED)

Upon (often shortened to 'on') means Immediately after; following on" (OED)

So ...

The postman may ask you to sign for a parcel when it is delivered to you. You, on the other hand, upon receipt of the parcel, may phone in due course to let your friend know that their parcel has arrived.

  • 1
    This is how I see it. Upon = after, When = at the time. – dwjohnston Jan 14 '16 at 23:39
2

As @Dan's answer suggests, upon should be interpreted as after, and when should be interpreted as at the time.

I'll give an example that might highlight the difference between the words.

When receiving a gift from foreign dignitaries, you should take great care to admire the wrapping paper and delicately unwrap the present.

Upon receiving a gift from foreign dignitaries, and pleasantries exchanged, the gift should be logged in the gift register.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.