Many native and non-native speakers of English alike are on the same boat regarding the confusion as to whether “Welcome aboard” or “Welcome onboard” is grammatically correct.
Apart from sounding almost identical, the two expressions’ syntactically incomplete structure is also adding insult to injury.
To shed light on these language-related peculiarities, this post tackles the grammatical nuances between “Welcome aboard” and “Welcome onboard,” together with some contextualization for an easier ride.
Let’s start with a quick synopsis.
What is the difference between “welcome onboard” and “welcome aboard”?
“Welcome onboard” and “Welcome aboard” both mean “We are pleased to welcome you.” Both expressions are typically used to greet newly-hired employees or passengers. In terms of usage, however, “Welcome aboard” is more widespread, and hence, a more standard greeting than “Welcome onboard.”
Differentiating “welcome onboard” and “welcome aboard”
People asking questions about the differences between or among certain expressions is an appealing phenomenon, at least for those engaged and interested in language studies.
When people ask the difference between “translate into” and “translate to” or “welcome aboard” and “welcome onboard,” intellectual discussions are prompted to occur.
Such kinds of inquiries meanwhile suggest that more and more people are getting keener on refining their knowledge of how languages work.
And in effect, language enthusiasts are also given more opportunities to share what academic scholars have tediously worked on over the years.
By and large, the positive implications become farther-reaching when specific linguistic phenomena, such as today’s topic, are granularly discussed.
To differentiate “Welcome aboard” and “Welcome onboard,” we can make use of established concepts in semantics, syntax, and pragmatics to name a few.
We can begin our granular discussion by analyzing the difference between the words “onboard” and “aboard.”
“Onboard vs. “Aboard”
The confusion in the expressions “Welcome onboard” and “Welcome aboard” particularly lie in the words “onboard” and “aboard.”
So, the subsections below aim to define and each word in detail.
The different meanings of “onboard”
“Onboard” is predominantly used either as an adjective or an adverb in both American and British Englishes. It basically means “being on” or “to move into” a transportation vessel.
As you may figure, an adjective is used to complement and modify nouns and pronouns, while an adverb modifies adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.
The adjective “onboard” typically comes before a noun, and it may also be alternatively written with a hyphen between “on” and “board,” and that is, “on-board.”
The alternative spelling “on-board” can only be used as an adjective, thereby making this variation less popular than “onboard,” which is, again, either an adjective or an adverb.
Meanwhile, the adverb “onboard” is just a more convenient way of saying “on board,” in which the latter is specifically called a prepositional phrase in syntax.
As “onboard” can also be used as an adverb, its typical role is to improve the meaning of a verb. In particular, “onboard” is used to locate the verb in the sentence.
That said, we can simply understand it as a response to the question “Where does the action take place?” such as in the next example.
Less formally and more recently, “onboard” has also been jargonically used as a verb in the context of human resources management.
Human resources staff, particularly those who are in the learning and development department, use the verb “to onboard” to describe the mechanism taken by new hirees in getting trained for their role.
The different meanings of “aboard”
“Aboard” is mainly used either as an adverb or preposition in American English. However, an additional part of speech is used in British English, which is an adjective.
As an adverb, “aboard” is used similarly to “on board” or “onboard.” Being a letter shorter than the latter expressions, “aboard” is definitely more practical.
This could be a utilitarian argument as to why “aboard” is the most popular word among all the others being discussed in this post.
The adverb “aboard” is mostly used to modify a verb too.
As mentioned, “aboard” may also be used as a preposition in sentences, and hence, we must see a nominal word or a noun phrase after it to represent this contention.
“Aboard” and the noun phrase succeeding it is also called a prepositional phrase whose job is to locate the verb.
Besides being an adverb and a preposition, British English users also make use of “aboard” as an adjective that usually comes after a noun.
We call this a postpositive or postnominal adjective in syntax. Examples of postpositive adjectives are the latter words in “attorney general,” “something strange,” and “mission impossible.”
In a nutshell, the meaning or sense of “onboard,” “aboard,” “on board,” and “on-board” remain consistent even if they are used in different parts of speech.
These nuances, albeit challenging, are some of the reasons why the English language is paradoxically complex yet simple at the same time, just like all other languages out there.
Now that we know how “onboard” is different and similar to “aboard,” we can now proceed with discussing how these words behave when paired with “welcome.”
“Welcome onboard” vs. “Welcome aboard”: Do we really need to make a fuss about them?
The short answer to the question above is that it is generally not necessary to worry about whether one of the two expressions is superior to the other.
This is because both expressions are interchangeable, and neither of them would create any unnecessary misinterpretation.
But, let’s make use of contextualization, as well as a syntactic approach, to fill the remaining gap in today’s discussion.
“Welcome onboard” is largely used to welcome people who are about to board a transportation vessel, such as a ship, an aircraft, or a train.
Let’s just say that you are about to spend a week-long trip to Hawaii to get away from the hustles and bustles of the city.
At the airport, it is common to hear flight attendants saying “Welcome onboard!” to passengers who are about to enter Boeing 717.
When it’s your turn to get into the aircraft service door, you should not get surprised if and when the attendant greets you using this expression.
Anyone using this expression to you is expected to accompany it with a cheerful tone and smile, although you might not appreciate the lovely gesture as much if you hate flying.
Meanwhile, “Welcome onboard” may also be idiomatically used in the context of organizational employment to acclimatize new employees.
Although the context is different, the intent of using the expression remains the same, and that is to make newcomers less anxious about their job as well as the people they are going to work with.
The neutrally-formal connotation of “Welcome onboard” is great for both written and spoken discourses, such as in emails and welcome addresses.
Here’s how you might use “Welcome onboard” in an email message:
The whole team is excited to work with you soon. With your expertise in marketing, we know that we can achieve far-reaching, lucrative results in no time. For any inquiries and concerns, you may contact me through this email or at +1 (516) 1190-7650.
Looking forward to seeing you soon!
4.2 “Welcome aboard”
“Welcome aboard” is simply a more popular variant of “Welcome onboard” in the sense that it is used more often than the latter expression.
To a greater extent, this greeting is also used by flight attendants, mess attendants, and train conductors in welcoming passengers who are about to board the vessel.
It is needless to say that someone would likely greet you with the expression “Welcome aboard” once you get into the Seven Seas Explorer for your seven-day Caribbean cruise.
I’m not sure whether you like flying or cruising better, but it would be polite if you respond to the greeting cheerfully with a quick “Thank you” the moment you hear it.
Similar to “Welcome onboard,” “Welcome aboard” is also used in accommodating newly-hired employees, which often takes place on or before the person reports for his or her first day of work.
To put it simply, “Welcome aboard” is just an idiomatic way of saying “Welcome to the team” or its alternatives like “Welcome to the company” and “Warm welcome.”
Here’s an example of an email making use of “Welcome aboard.”
We are really glad to have you on our team. I am personally thrilled to meet you soon because we will be working as partners on many projects. That said, please feel free to reach out to me via this email or at +1 (516) 654-0981 if you have any questions and clarifications before you start working on Monday.
By the way, you can wear anything between smart to business casual per company practice. See you soon!
Frequently Asked Questions on “Welcome onboard” vs. “Welcome aboard”
What does “Welcome aboard” mean?
“Welcome aboard” is an expression that either means “Welcome to the aircraft, ship, or train” or “Welcome to the team or company.”
What does “Welcome onboard” mean when said to a new employee?
In the context of employment, “Welcome onboard” particularly means “Welcome to the team” or “Welcome to the company.” This is a greeting expression used to acclimatize or accommodate new employees.
What is a synonym for “Welcome on board”?
“Welcome to the squad” is a more casual synonym for “Welcome on board,” while “Welcome to the company” is a more formal one.
Greeting expressions like “Welcome onboard” and “Welcome aboard” have been carried over from the context of transportation to general employment.
With that being said, we can only conclude that language is indeed a whimsical entity that dynamically coexists with humans.
As long as languages remain recursive and people stay creative, then we should expect more playful and resourceful ways to communicate with one another in the future.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.