Possible Duplicate:
Fire (at, on, in, to) target

I saw the following sentence on Guardian.co.uk:

US navy fires on boat near Dubai port.

Is on being used here as a preposition to make a link between the fire and the boat, or is it part of the phrasal verb — if it exists — fires on?

Can you give some examples where on is being used like the one referred above?

  • 1
    If they had fired over the boat, then chances are they'd lower their guns, and then fire on the boat.
    – J.R.
    Jul 16, 2012 at 20:43
  • 1
    Sorry J.R, but I can't understand the differences between fired over vs fired on :S
    – utxeee
    Jul 16, 2012 at 20:46
  • @utxeee if they fire over it, they've missed their target. Jul 16, 2012 at 20:49
  • Fired on is like fired at; you aim at the boat. Fired over means you aim above the target, perhaps to give a warning shot.
    – J.R.
    Jul 16, 2012 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


It would technically be a prepositional phrase, not part of the verb since you could do without it. US Navy 'fires' 'on boat' near Dubai port. However, that would then mean they were on the boat when they were firing, which is assumed since it is the US Navy. Therefore, you're right, it would be verb phrase. US Navy 'fires on' boat near Dubai port.

  • 1
    I don't think the 'on' in 'fire on' is acting as a preposition. If 'He fired on the boat' is parsed as [[NP he] [VP [V fired] [PP on the boat]]], that means that he fired, and the place he did it is 'on the boat'. And that's not the meaning. the meaning is he did something to the boat? What did he do to the boat? He -fired on- it. It's a phrasal verb here.
    – Mitch
    Jul 16, 2012 at 21:47
  • Fixed. You're right, and I totally changed the sentance when I diagrammed it! Jul 16, 2012 at 22:04

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