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At one’s back vs On one’s back

at one’s back—

1. said of smb. pursuing or chasing a person:

  • He hopped on the bike and tore out of the lot, as though the hounds of hell were at his back.

2. said of smb. giving support or protection to a person:

  • He has the head of the Department at his back.

on one’s back—

1. said of smb. causing trouble to a person:

  • He wants to know who’s going to be Sheriff. That’s the person who’s going to be on his back.

2. said of smb. being a burden to a person (causing expense, etc.):

  • We’re the backbone of the country, but you see, Bob, there’s too many people on our backs.

Note: The expression does not correlate in meaning with the phrase on one’s shoulders—being smb.’s responsibility:

  • I’d like to get the decision made as early as possible because I don’t want to have it on my shoulders for the whole season.