What is the correct preposition to use after improvement? For example,

The successful candidate is expected to contribute with an improvement of the current calibration.

  • 1
    The answer suitable for the example sentence will not necessarily apply in all contexts, so that the question title cannot be a general one as it is now. You need to match the title and the question in scope.
    – Kris
    Feb 14, 2012 at 12:12
  • Yes, different propositions may be used in different contexts.
    – karthik
    Feb 14, 2012 at 18:03

5 Answers 5


As a native speaker of American English, the sentences that sound correct to me are as follows, and in the order in which I would expect them:

The successful candidate is expected to contribute with an improvement to the invention

  • In this instance, the candidate is suppose to contribute a single idea to a single tangible item or project. In this case, he is bringing a new improvement to this invention

The successful candidate is expected to contribute with an improvement in the quality of life

The successful candidate is expected to contribute with an improvement of quality of life (less standard sounding to my ear)

  • Here a mass quantity will have a measurable increase of something.

The successful candidate is expected to contribute with an improvement *on the status quo.

  • Here, I'd probably use over however, meaning that the improvement is over an existing standard.

There has been an improvement in/of Sally's performance in Mathematics from 3.0/4.0 to 3.2/4.0 and she is determined to further improve on/in her skills in this subject.

My choices: improvement in, improve on for the optional positions marked by /.

improve on may mean additions as part of improvement, whereas improve in may mean improvement in efficiency, proficiency etc. without any enhancement in techniques or functionalities.For many people however they mean the same or both interchangeably.

  • will the down-voter (\geq 1) please explain himself/herself?
    – karthik
    Feb 14, 2012 at 17:59
  • karthik, I don't see any big problems with your answer as such, but it may be that someone wants you to add live links to the ngrams, rather than just the pictures. This issue arose a few months ago and was discussed in meta. Feb 14, 2012 at 18:36
  • I think these charts tell us little, because much depends on the actual words following improve[ment] in/of. Possibly most of what we're seeing is simply explained by the fact that certain constructions which always favoured "on" have become more common for unrelated reasons. And perhaps, for example, we're now more likely to speak of performance improvement rather than improvement in/of performance. Feb 14, 2012 at 19:08
  • @jwpat7 I understand your point, will add live links from now on.
    – karthik
    Feb 16, 2012 at 11:05
  • @FumbleFingers Does it matter? I am searching for standard usage patterns of two phrases,(both of which are correct) in texts written in English. So, even if I missed some improving on-s and improving in-s, when the sampling is classified so generally, and they are so clearly biased across time in both forms of English, it should be clear that at least one of the phrases became less popular. Yet, recall, we dont infer about incorrectness here.But usability of both due to a large popularity can be inferred.I would have also agreed this were between say, improvement in vs improvement from.
    – karthik
    Feb 16, 2012 at 11:18

A thing may be improved, or made better. You can use the word in this sense by saying something along the lines of

The successful candidate is expected to contribute by improving the current calibration.

If you're not actually modifying the calibration and rather submitting an improvement, however, you'll have to use a preposition.

In that case, you "improve upon" something by making or suggesting something better. "Improve on" may be used similarly.

Some people use "improve in" to convey individuals' attainment of skill (e.g. "John improved in playing the violin"), but this isn't correct, since using improve without an object in this way would imply that John himself increased in value or became better (see definition #5 here).

I assume that "John improved at playing the violin" would be correct, but it isn't used commonly (in my part of the US, at least).

"Improve of" and "improve to" are just incorrect -- see the definitions of "of" and "to."


It could be an improvement 'of the current curriculum' an improvement 'in performance' or an improvement 'on previous attempts."


The Macmillan Dictionary's definition of improvement highlights this phrase:

an improvement on something : better than something that existed before

Using their recommendation, I would rewrite your phrase this way:

The successful candidate is expected to contribute an improvement on the current calibration method.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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