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General Writing and Grammar Help/Cancel something - cancel on something

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Question
Dear Ted:

Which of the following is correct and natural: "to cancel something" or "to cancel ON something"?

If both are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

As always, many, many thanks for your valuable help.

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Which of the following is correct and natural: "to cancel something" or "to
cancel ON something"?

If both are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

*** The common phrase is "to cancel something."

I am going to cancel my vacation plans.

Because of Hurricane Sandy, both presidential candidates temporarily canceled their campaign appearances.

Since she reads the news on the internet, she decided to cancel her print newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

***  I have heard "to cancel ON something" used only in reference to a promise to another person.  It is an uncommon phrase in English.

EXAMPLE:  I am far behind in my work, so I will not be able to come to your dinner party.  I must cancel on you.

I know that I promised to help you paint your outside, but I have been called away on an emergency, and I must cancel on you.

Ted  

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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