Non-native english speaker here. The context is songwriting.

Can a tide "wash upon" someone or something?

  • 1
    Can a tide "wash upon" someone or something? Not without a full sentence and some context - could you provide these?
    – Greybeard
    Oct 25, 2020 at 10:34
  • I suggest "wash over". But a tide isn't the same thing as a wave, or the sea, and would be used to express something other than water, such as emotion. Oct 25, 2020 at 10:35
  • @Greybeard out of honest curiosity, what'd happen if I shared the lyrics here and someone else were to use them? People steal the craziest things, even home-made literary garbage.
    – Rob
    Oct 25, 2020 at 11:22
  • @WeatherVane over is one syllable, upon is two and the latter both sounded and fit better "the meter" (?)
    – Rob
    Oct 25, 2020 at 11:28
  • "Over" has two syllables. With no context, how could anyone have known about the meter? Oct 25, 2020 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


The tide or waves may wash upon the shore. The use of upon rather than on gives the sense of the water rising to where it washes (=flows) over the shore. The use of wash implies a repetitive phenomenon. Both are appropriate to waves and tides, waves on a shore usually rising and falling rapidly with periods measured in seconds and the tide being a special case of a slowly repeating wave of long period measured in hours.

If water washes somewhere, it flows there, usually repeatedly

Cambridge dictionary

In song writing, poetry or sensual literature, the phrase may be used. I need quote none of the many examples to be found by online search for "tide washes upon the shore").

Historically "wash upon the shore" was more popular than now. Here is the google ngram:

enter image description here

To give you just one representative technical oceanographic example far removed from creative wordplay, please consider:

Unlike the situation in exposed beaches where waves wash upon the shore and replenish the interstitial oxygenated water supply by gravity, the submerged sand has only diffusion processes and currents ...


This technical prose relies on upon (the movement onto the shore, implying later movement off the shore) for its meaning. Only when water subsides is water drawn down into the sand. If the water merely moved on the shore it would not necessarily subside, and no new oxygenated water would be drawn down into the sand.

I conclude that you are justified in using the phrase both by artistic precedent, by previous usage, and by reasoned contemporary technical usage. The phrase also has an easily understandable and not too wide a range of meaning within the context of a song.

  • Thank you! I believe I did my homework, as it were, but I suspect my search results are either skewed or I couldn't find anything conclusive (to me, anyway). ngram looks great. RhymeZone is usually my first - and only - choice.
    – Rob
    Oct 25, 2020 at 11:19
  • I enjoyed that one. Took me back to my professional times.
    – Anton
    Oct 25, 2020 at 11:30

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