A participant asked me: Do we say “outlook in life” or “outlook on life”?

Let’s use the following formula that I’ve discussed on my page Problematic Prepositions:

How do we choose the correct preposition for the phrase “outlook in/on life”?

a. First, look to the head, which, as you know, can be the relevant verb, noun or adjective that precedes the preposition. Does the noun outlook require its own preposition? If yes, then we look for the usual pairing.

b. If the noun outlook does not require its own preposition, we look to the object life. Does the noun life require its object? If yes, then look for the usual pairing.

To find the usual pairing of the head/noun outlook, let’s check the definitions and examples given by dictionaries.

The New Oxford American Dictionary provides:

outlook |ˈoutˌlo͝ok|
1 a person’s point of view or general attitude to life. Example: broaden your outlook on life.

Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary provides:

Notice that when we use outlook to refer to a person’s point of view, the preposition added is on. But when outlook refers to future conditions, the preposition added is for.

The answer to my student’s question? Outlook on life.

Here’s a challenge for you. Which preposition do we use: “shoot in the leg” or “shoot on the leg”?

Photo credit: Stilo


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