Difference between “Above” and “Over”

Both “over” and “above” mean ‘higher than’ and in many cases are interchangeable:


She was sitting and watching the clouds above/over her head go by.
There was a beautiful rainbow above/over the horizon.

When to Use “Over” and “Above”


The main difference between them is the context, e.g. over indicates movement, while above refers to a location.

We use over, but not above, to imply movement from one location to another:
Jane was going over the street.
If you want a beer, you should go to the pub over there.

On the other hand, we use above, but not over, to imply the location:
The book was on the shelf above the desk.
She put her handbag in the locker above her head.


We use over, but nor above, when there is contact between the things:
She put a blanket over her to get warmer (not She put a blanket above her to get warmer)

Over and Above


We use above, but not over, when something is higher than something else, without touching:
The bird was singing above her head. (not The bird was singing over her head)


We usually use over, not above, with numbers:
There were over a thousand people at the demonstrations. (not There were above a thousand people at the demonstrations)

Over 300 people died in the devastating earthquake (not above 300 people died in the devastating earthquake)

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