Decide vs. Decide (up)on

How to use "decide" with and without a preposition correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

The verb to decide can be either a transitive verb (a verb that takes an object) or an intransitive verb (a verb that does not take an object unless a preposition follows it).

To decide an issue means “to solve, settle, or determine” it. In this case it is a transitive verb, and no preposition is used. The expression decided on should be used to introduce the ultimate outcome of the situation or decision:

The general’s orders decided on the matter.
The general’s orders decided the matter.

The general decided on/upon a direct assault.

stopped while we decided on/upon which route to take
stopped while we decided which route to take

We finally decided on/upon the quicker route.

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

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