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Despite having heard enough times already that upon is an archaic version of the on preposition, I'm still struggling to thoroughly understand its meaning and usage.

In the quoted sentence, wouldn't it make more sense to use after?

Consider the possibility of activating accounts automatically upon a new dataset creation.

Is this just another way of expressing the thought, a more formal one?

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  • 'Upon' is often a just more formal variant of 'on', though its use in certain subsenses might well be archaic. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '19 at 9:07
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After means just that: at any time after the event. Using after would mean that once the new dataset had been created, the conditions are right for an account to be activated.

Upon indicates a simultaneous operation, "at the time of". See ODO sense 8 (upon redirects to on):

8 indicating the day or part of a day during which an event takes place:

  reported on September 26
  on a very hot evening in July

  • at the time of:
        she was booed on arriving home

The quoted sentence means

Consider the possibility of activating accounts automatically at the time of a new dataset creation.

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  • Andrew, would be correct to replace upon by during in the quoted sentece ? – utxeee Oct 1 '12 at 17:13
  • No, don't use during. During would suggest that one operation can't finish until the other has been completed. Upon is a good word to use here, it conveys that one event is triggered by the other. As an example: Upon hearing the punch line, he laughed. He doesn't laugh during the punch line, he laughs after. You could use after in place of upon, but upon suggests more of a quick reaction; after could mean he had to think about the punch line first, before the laughter started. – J.R. Oct 1 '12 at 21:53
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Upon may well refer to an action leading to/triggering another one immediately.

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  • Propter hoc, not just always post hoc! I agree, Euclides, and this hasn't been mentioned before. But please add supporting (linked and attributed) reference/s; I suggest the Cambridge Dictionary. Note that 'after' can also denote consequentiality ('After what Aloysius Elbon did to me, I’ll never trust him again'), but the default 'subsequent' sense is far more prevalent than with 'upon'. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 15 '19 at 9:11

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