On behalf or in behalf? Which is right?

They are actually both correct expression but differ in meaning. However, even native speakers of English can get the two confused, so let’s see what each actually means.

In behalf of means “for the sake of” or “for the benefit of.”

On behalf of means “in the stead of” or “in place of.”

Here is an example of in behalf of in a sentence:

The government built more elevators in behalf of the handicap.

In the sentence above, the government built more elevators for the sake and convenience of handicapped citizens.

And here is an example of on behalf of in a sentence:

Because his sister was sick, Paul gave the speech on her behalf at the fundraising event.

Here, we can see that Paul is representing his sister who was too sick to make a speech at the fundraising event. He gave the speech as her substitute or replacement.

Currently in British English, only on the behalf of is used instead of in the behalf of. In American English, however, both are used, although many people get confused between the two. Some American writers even use the two phrase interchangeably, implying there is no difference in meaning. Because languages are constantly changing, the use of phrases like in behalf of and on behalf of may be subject to change, but for now, the former means “for the sake of” while the latter means “in the stead of.”

You can take a look at these sample sentences to get a better idea of which is used in each of the following situations:

  • The attorney spoke on the behalf of the plaintiff in court.
  • The students brought flowers to class in behalf of the teachers on Teachers’ Day.
  • The CEO catered dinner to the company in behalf of his employees who worked overtime.
  • I signed the delivery on behalf of my mother who was sleeping in.

Now, you can test your understanding of the two phrases by trying out our practice questions.

  1. Joe quit smoking in/on the behalf of his two daughters.
  2. The lawyer is speaking in/on the behalf of his client.
  3. The minor needs an adult to sign the form in/on his behalf.
  4. Dirk was injured, so Robert played in/on his behalf during the basketball game.
  5. The volunteers picked up trash in the neighborhood in/on behalf of the residents in the area.
  6. A cat may bring a dead mouse in/on behalf of its owner, but cat owners typically are rather frightened by the notion.
  7. The university created multiple different scholarships in/on the behalf of students from low-income families.
  8. The organization created a dog park in/on the behalf of dog owners in the city.
  9. Erica donated to the foundation in/on behalf of her late grandfather who had donated every year prior to his death.
  10. Ian accepted the award in/on behalf of his father who was out of the country at the time.

Distinguishing between on behalf of and in behalf of can be difficult, especially if English is your second language. Check out Pcanpi where you can enter in your sentences to get them checked by out AI proofreader which will give you immediate feedback and suggestions on your writing.


Answers to the practice questions:

  1. in
  2. on
  3. on
  4. on
  5. in
  6. in
  7. in
  8. in
  9. on
  10. on

Reference:

The Grammarphobia Blog: “In behalf of” vs. “on behalf of”
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