How to style the title "HANG ON TO YOURSELF"

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007fbb4fb18868> #<Tag:0x00007fbb4fb18728>

The Auto guess case for this title gives: Hang on to yourself.

Me, I used to blindly follow this button because even in French I am never sure With Caps Titles Style Like That (What word Takes Uppercase And what Word gets Lowercase).

I have been told several times long time ago that On was an adverb so we should write instead: Hang On to yourself.

But some other people say it’s not an adverb, it’s a preposition, so on should be as the Automatic button says.

I hope English natives will discuss this here and we can then write the conclusion in the work annotation for future reference. :slight_smile:

  • “Hang On to Yourself”
  • “Hang on to Yourself”
  • Even something else
  • I don’t know

0 voters

Please help. :slight_smile:

English Style extract:

Capitalize all words except :

  • (c) Short prepositions (three letters or less): as, at, by, for, in, of, on, to, but, cum, mid, off, per, qua, re, up, via – except when used as adverbs or as an inseparable part of a verb (as in “Plug In Baby” or “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”).

So it all depends if we have a preposition or an adverb.

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Adverb here, capitalized. But that doesn’t prevent me from accidentally making edits using guess case and missing it from time to time.



hang on
phrasal verb of hang


The goggle link didn’t quite work on my browser, but I think you meant:

hang on

vb ( intr )

1. ( adverb ) to continue or persist in an activity, esp with effort or difficulty: hang on at your present job until you can get another.

2. ( adverb ) to cling, grasp, or hold: she hangs on to her mother’s arm.

3. ( preposition ) to be conditioned or contingent on; depend on: everything hangs on this business deal.

4. ( preposition ) Also: hang onto or hang upon to listen attentively to: she hung on his every word.

5. ( adverb ) informal to wait or remain: hang on for a few minutes.

Indeed it seems that Hang on to yourself matches definition number 2 (adverb).

So ON is both a preposition (its root genre) but can be an adverb in some contexts like this kind of context maybe we have here… :thinking:

“Hang On” is a verbal phrase, like a separable prefix verb in German; z.B. “es hängt an” (the verb is anhängen). “On” is not a preposition in this phrase, but part of the verb. I could see the argument the other way for some cases, but in this case I don’t see one clutching one’s own body, but rather maintaining composure.

When “on” is a preposition to hang, there is a direct object onto which is being held in a literal sense (grasping with hands). When used metaphorically, as in not becoming emotional (control yourself!), the “on” ceases to be a preposition and becomes a part of the verb.

I wouldn’t make sweeping generalizations about “Hang On”, but approach them on a case-by-case basis.


Even though hang on is a phrasal verb, on doesn’t lose its part of speech: It’s still an adverb that modifies hang. It describes the way that one is to hang.

(Careful with the wording, though: phrasal verbs and verb phrases are two different things!)

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But “on” is not usually an adverb, by itself it’s a preposition, as @sbontrager says. “Hang on” as a verb has a completely different meaning from, say, “Hang [it] on the rack.”

(In the latter sense, hang actually requires/implies a direct object - it’s transitive - where “hang on” takes an indirect object, as in the example.)

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As tough as this one is, consider “Hanging On to the Telephone” by Blondie. Causes me a mental breakdown.


On can be a preposition, adverb, or adjective; it depends entirely on context. The conversation up until that point was about whether or not it was a preposition or adverb in the song title. @sbontrager’s comment seems to imply that the elements of a phrasal verb don’t have parts of speech, but that’s not true: Hang on is a phrasal verb and on is an adverb in that context—the two aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s the same for the senses of hang on in which on is a preposition, and for any other phrasal verb, noun phrase, prepositional phrase, etc.: the individual words still have a part of speech.

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Ha ha, this URL still doesn’t work! :unamused:

just google dictionary search results.
for me, on chrome/chromeos, copied and pasted here:


hang on

phrasal verb of hang

hold tightly.

“hang on, we’re going to crash!”


hold onto

hold fast to




hold tightly

cling to

cling onto

cleave to


let go of


remain firm or persevere, especially in difficult circumstances.

“he hung on until medics could get him into the hospital at Camp Wolf”



hold out

hold on

go on

carry on

keep on

keep going

keep at it

not give up




stay the course

stay with it

struggle on

plod on

plow on

soldier on

plug away

peg away

stick at it

stick it out

hang in there

bash on


give up

  • keep or retain something.

“he is determined to hang onto his job”


wait for a short time.

“hang on, I’m not ready yet”



wait a minute

hold on


hold the line

hold your horses

sit tight

hang about

  • (on the phone) remain connected until one is able to talk to a particular person.

“hang on, I’ll put you through to someone who can help you”

be subject to or dependent on something.

“everything hangs on tonight’s game”


depend on

be dependent on

turn on

hinge on

rest on

be based on

be conditional on

be contingent upon

be determined by

be decided by

be conditioned by

revolve around

listen closely to something.

“she hung on his every word”


listen closely to

attend closely to

pay close attention to

be very attentive to

concentrate hard on

pay heed to

lend an ear to

give ear to

be rapt by

be all ears for

hearken to


pay no attention to


attach the blame for something to someone.

“it is unfair to hang the loss on Williams”

I think people are drawn to the (correct) notion that “on” can be used as an adverb, but I’m not convinced that’s the case here. If it’s part of a phrasal verb, it can be either a particle (which behaves like an adverb) or a preposition.

True, but here “hang on to” is present, not just “hang on” – “hang on” and “hang on to/hang onto” are different phrasal verbs with different meanings, and the word “on” can have different functional uses between them.

Phrasal verbs can be a verb plus particle, verb plus preposition, or verb plus particle plus preposition, but a preposition can be more than one word. So it still depends on the meaning of the phrase, which (like a lot of songs) isn’t exactly transparent here.

The line in the song that the title is taken from is “If you think we’re gonna make it, you better hang on to yourself.”

Definition 2 refers to a physical act. It doesn’t really make sense in this context. “If you think we’re going to have sex, you should dangle from yourself.” (And I really question whether that example even correctly labeled as phrasal verb, since it’s it’s a literal rather than idiomatic use of the word “hang”: A small child holding her mother’s arm for support is literally, not figuratively, hanging from it, in the same way a painting hangs from a nail.)

Even taken somewhat idiomatically to mean “cling” as in ‘target with affection’, I’m still not convinced “on” would be an adverb or particle rather than a preposition, because it’s doesn’t imply continuing or resuming an act (like “on” does when it’s an adverb), “hang” doesn’t require the word “on” to mean “cling”, and “to” can be dropped and the phrase maintains essentially the same meaning. “Hang on to yourself” can be interpreted as a snarky way of saying “take your sexual expectations off me and put them on yourself”.

Other somewhat fitting definitions (especially for the first version of the song) are here and here, which gives the meaning as more like preserve or retain. These can be more metaphorical, like “hang onto your dignity”. “Onto” is consistently labeled as a preposition, and the title is given that way in about a third of the Ziggy Stardust releases on Discogs, and on the original 7" release of this song by the Alan Corns. (Granted, since it’s four letters, it’s always capitalized here.)

The Blondie title is just “Hanging on the Telephone”, and in that case, “on” is definitely a preposition, and “hanging” is a synonym for “waiting” that doesn’t require an adverb, (although it could theoretically be “Hanging On on the the Telephone”). It’s the perfect example of definition 4 above.


I knew it was not simple. :slight_smile:
I just want to make 2 remarks.

Even if I am not sure if what it means, HANG ONTO YOURSELF is printed on a minority of official releases. I think even ARNOLD CORNS had more HANG ON TO YOURSELF editions.
Anyway I don’t understand fully any of the titles.

And also one thing I thought is:
It seems here, if we remove ON, then HANG becomes a different verb. No? :thinking:
So HANG ON is a verb here? :thinking:
Does the MusicBrainz English role say that if the ON is part of the verb, then we should capitalise it as On? :thinking:
Or I am wrong? :wink:

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You are 100% right about that

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It’s not a matter of how often it occurs. It’s OK to write “onto” as the compound preposition “on to” and still have it function the same way grammatically – the contraction is a relatively recent creation and not as widely accepted. But if “on” is an adverb, it’s considered grammatically incorrect to write “on to” as “onto”, which is always a preposition. So either it was intended as a preposition and is just written inconsistently, or it’s grammatically inaccurate on about 1/3 of the releases, including the original.

But I think the hard truth is nobody involved in creating the track list on releases really cared enough to give it this much thought.

It depends on the intended meaning. If “hang” means something like ‘depend’ or ‘maintain contact’, then it doesn’t matter which preposition is used. But even if it did, that alone wouldn’t mean “on” is an adverb. “The fate of the world shouldn’t hang on this capitalization” – the word “on” isn’t an adverb there.

Removing “to” changes its meaning as well, so you have to consider the phrase as “hang on to”, which could still be verb+compound preposition. Most sources I’ve seen say that “onto” or “on to” is a preposition when used to indicate an attachment, like “hang onto (a memory or keepsake)”, “latch onto”, or “glom onto”.

I just don’t see enough evidence that “on” modifies the verb more than it defines a relationship to the object.

I’m not good in English but I thought it was Hang On as in French accroche-toi (imperative form), that has a meaning alone, without to yourself. And Hang (imperative form), alone, I thought it had no meaning.

But here, where Hang alone means something, it’s Hang on Something, it’s not Hang On to Something.

I don’t think that fits the idiom. In French, the line would be more like “Tu devrais garder l’esprit.” “To” cannot be removed from the phrase without drastically changing the meaning. It’s a different phrasal verb than the ones that mean ‘grab’ or ‘prepare’.

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