How to correctly choose the preposition in "fire (at, on, in, to) target"?

3 Answers 3

  • on - shoot with purpose to hit and destroy/kill the target.
  • at - shoot in direction of target, attempting to hit but possibly missing it, or not doing any significant damage. ("cover fire")
  • in - shoot through the target which is hollow/open. "fire a rocket in the bunker through that hatch".
  • to - describing maximum range, not actual target. "our mortars can fire to that hill range"
  • Perferct answer...
    – Rohan Shah
    Jun 28, 2012 at 14:13
  • 5
    Your first point is just wrong ('Heavy fire was opened on the target but no hits were observed'), and the third seems to confuse in and into. Jun 28, 2012 at 15:10

You can "fire at" or "fire on" them. To "fire in" would mean "inside" and "fire to" is just not grammatical. As to why some prepositions and not others, I suspect it's rather arbitrary.

  • 3
    Note we usually say "fire at". I've never heard someone say, "I fired on the target", though people will say "I fired on the enemy" or "We fired on the city". Can anyone out there clarify if there is a difference between "fire at" and "fire on", or when each is appropriate? I'm rather stuck, perhaps because I've never fired at anything other than a paper target. (Though I can confidantly state that if I am ever attacked by blue men who stand completely motionless 25 yards away, I can defend myself.)
    – Jay
    Jun 28, 2012 at 14:03

Your question is too broad. A soldier may direct fire at or on a target (at is more usually shooting at something seen, while on might be plotted on a map); the fire travels to the target, and a fire may break out in the target.

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