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Opinions of Saturday, 16 May 2015

Columnist: Azindoo, Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq

Literary discourse: Correct usage: “on behalf of” or “in behalf of”

By Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo, Coordinator of Students and University Relations, University of Applied Management (UAM), Germany – Ghana Campus, McCarthy Hill, Accra and Tamale
Email: Tell: 0244755402

The phrases “ON BEHALF OF” and “IN BEHALF OF” are similar and worthy of literary discourse. This is to establish their semantic and grammatical validity, the differences between them in usage, and the specific varieties of English – American or British – each is suitable for. The discourse is NOT intended to engage in value judgment or verbal pyrotechnics about the phrases. At the end of it, the choice will be the reader’s, depending on the appropriate usage in the appropriate context.

Learning Outcomes
After going through this discourse, fellow learners and readers should be able to understand the appropriate usage of:
“ON BEHALF OF” is commonly said, and it is correct. “IN BEHALF OF” is hardly used, but it is correct. Hahahahahaha! Dear reader, don’t be confused! Yes the two phrases are grammatically right but semantically different. In other words, they have different meanings, although they both belong to the same grammatical class of prepositional phrases. According to THE AMERICAN HERITAGE BOOK OF ENGLISH USAGE, “ON BEHALF OF” means “as agent of” or “on the part of.” Examples in usage: [a] ON BEHALF of Ghanaian Muslims, the National Chief Imam has commended the Turkish community in Ghana for the construction of a modern central mosque in Accra. [b] Azinpaga has received the award for literary excellence ON BEHALF of her husband, who has been adjudged the Best Public Speaker.

In addition, THE AMERICAN HERITAGE BOOK OF ENGLISH USAGE cites “IN BEHALF OF” to mean “for the benefit of.” Examples in usage: [a] The Dagbon Youth Association (DAYA) has launched a fundraising project IN BEHALF of victims of fire outbreak at Tamale Market. [b] The Northern Students’ Union (NORSU) has organized extra classes IN BEHALF of students of Senior High schools across the country.

The Third Edition of Oxford Dictionary of English edited by Angus Sevenson corroborates the American authority, but singles out “IN BEHALF OF” as American usage. Among other things, the dictionary defines “ON BEHALF OF” as “as representative of”, “on the part of”, and “done by.”

In the light of the above discussion, it has become clear that none of the two phrases under review – “ON BEHALF OF” and in “BEHALF OF” – is better than the other. What is better than both of them is the ability to understand them well and use them appropriately.

James, C. (1998). Errors in language learning and use. London: Routledge.
Oxford dictionary of English. (2010). (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The American heritage book of English usage. (1996). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.