I have seen "on the scene" and "at the scene". I don't understand their differences very clearly.

"At the scene", seems to be used in relation to an accident, or incident. For example: According to the witnesses at the scene, more than 50 people died.

"On the scene", can be used this way. Here is a (incomplete) sentence from COCA*: allowed the detective to identify the suspect, pass the information to officers on the scene.

"On the scene", however, can also be used in relation to stage; it might not be a physical stage, rather, more probably a figurative stage. Here is a sentence from COCA: With the Barksdale empire falling, a new kid comes on the scene with scant regard for the reputation and values of his drug-peddling fore-fathers.

What do you think?

Thank you.

COCA: Corpus of Contemporary American English

1 Answer 1


In your example of "at the scene," the subject is a passive observer, merely a witness to some notable action. In both examples of "on the scene", the subjects are active participants of the main events. The detectives and officers are working on the crime, while the new kid on the scene has taken 'center stage.' We don't know the fuller context, but the insouciance of this newcomer ensures that he has our attention. This kid has a lead role to play, he is not an extra just adding texture to the background.

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