Do these two following sentences have the same meaning?

  • I need help. I can't put my foot to the ground.
  • I need help. I can't put my foot on the ground.

Does the first one mean: I can not move my foot toward the ground?

and also about,

He put his ears to the ground.

why not, he put his ears on the ground.

Thank you guys.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. There is related question (with a fine answer), so I am voting to close.
    – rajah9
    Dec 3, 2019 at 12:25
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Difference between "fell to the ground" vs. "fell on the ground"
    – rajah9
    Dec 3, 2019 at 12:26
  • I would say the above expression is different from the proposed duplicate. Putting a tentative, wounded or infected, foot 'to' the ground implies, to me, gently touching a toe on the floor, testing one's ability to put weight on it. Altogether different to a bird 'falling to' the ground.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 3, 2019 at 13:21
  • I do agree with Nigel J. Those are completely different subjects.
    – marjoonjan
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:45
  • to means motion toward then upon the target: foot to the ground, nose to the grindstone, drive to Liverpool Dec 4, 2019 at 5:45

2 Answers 2


"Putting your foot to the ground" is an idiom implying standing or walking on it, while "putting it on the ground" could just mean resting it there.

"He put his ear on the ground" conjures up a comical picture of someone detaching their ear and laying it down. If you put your ear to the ground you bend down and apply one ear to listen for footsteps etc.; a human being can't very well put both ears to the ground at once!

  • Thank you very much. it helped me a lot <3
    – marjoonjan
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:49

"to the ground" means putting your foot in the direction of the ground but not actually touching it. Often heard when learning to ride a bike. You put your foot to the ground but it actually touches the ground, is "on the ground", when the bike tips over a little and gives you the couple of centimeters that you need. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/on (1.a and b)

The same would apply to the ear example. Meaning that something is positioned in the direction of something else. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/to (4) "Take a step to the left, and then a jump to the right"

I presume that it is more of a slang usage of to(wards) since the phrasal verb "put to" has another definition. Source: https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/put-to

  • @BobNavarro you have no way to tell who downvoted you. Dec 4, 2019 at 9:44
  • 1
    So that means that I can just go around down-voting anybody I like, whenever I like and nobody can do anything about it. Don't have to justify it, and never get any reproach. What a great regulation! I think I will stop commenting anything altogether now. It doesn't seem to be worth it.
    – BobNavarro
    Dec 4, 2019 at 9:52

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