PREPOSITIONS AFTER VERBS
These guidelines are not rigid. Winston Churchill once remarked. “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
Obviously, there will be exceptions to the rule, particularly when prepositions are used with verbs. In the quote above, the verb-preposition form is to put up with. In writing, however, it is best to recast the sentence to read “I will not put up with this sort of English.”
Prepositions are used with verbs to change the meaning slightly or to distinguish between people and objects.
1. Accompany by and Accompany with
- The president was accompanied by his wife. (accompany by is used with a person)
- The president was accompanied with a postage-due notice. (accompany by is used with an object)
2. Agree with and Agree to
Agree with—occur in opinion. (agree with a person)
Agree to—give assent. (agree to an idea or thing)
- I agree with Carl that we should operate tomorrow.
- I agree to an operation for my ulcer.
3) Answer to and Answer for
Answer to—be accountable to a person; respond to
Answer for—be accountable for actions
- You’ll have to answer to the commission for your sales record. He’s 4 years old and answers to the name “Fred.”
- You’ll have to answer for you decision to abort the mission.
4) Belong to and Belong with
Belong to—be a member of
Belong with—be classified or placed among
- They belong to the Secret Order of the Koala.
- These flowers belong with the plants classified as grasses.
5) Compare to and Compare with
Compare with—contrast for similarities and differences
- She compared my singing to a summer’s day?
- He compared the Russian military strength with the United Statesarmed forces.
6) Concur in and Concur with
Concur in—agree (in an opinion)
Concur with—agree (with another person)
- The three judges concurred in their settlement of the case.
- I must concur with Jim that the settlement is fair.
7) Connect to and Connect with
Connect to—join (one object to another)
Connect with—make contact with (a person, group, idea)
- The first step is to connect the positive wire to the positive pole.
- If we drive overnight, we can connect with the first group by dawn.
8) Correspond to and Correspond with
Correspond with—exchange messages
- The handwriting on this letter corresponds to the handwriting on the earlier document.
- Janet has corresponded with a friend in Costa Rica for three years.
9) Differ from and Differ with
Differ from—be unlike
Differ with—disagree with
- The movie differed from the book in several ways.
- The figures in the government report differ with those in our study.
10) Promote and Promote to
Promote (with title, no preposition)—to increase in rank or status
Promote to—to raise to a higher rank or status
- She was promoted Lieutenant Commander.
- She was promoted to executive level for her work in computer sales.
11) Wait for, Wait on, and Wait out
Wait for—to be ready or at hand for
Wait on—to serve
Wait out—colloquial expression meaning to remain inactive during the course of
- The general waited for the signal to attack.
- When my father was in school, he earned money waiting on tables.
- The fans waited out the rainstorm by taking shelter under the bleachers.
PREPOSITIONS AFTER VERBS (2)
1. Learn about/of and Know about/of
We use either about or of with learn and know when we talk about something that happens to somebody or something, or about a particular event. Of is more formal with these verbs.
- I have just leant about/of the death of Cr. Brown. (= found out about)
- What little is known about/of the plans suggests they will be unpopular.
2) Know and Know about/of
We use know + noun when we talk about personal experience of people and things. Otherwise, we use know about/of + noun.
- My uncle knew Churchill. and
- The whole country knew about/of Churchill’s love of cigars.
3) Learn about and Know about
We use learn about and know about (not ‘of’) when we talk about a particular subject that we study.
- They began to learn about nutrition when they were at primary school.
- Ten years ago we knew little about black holes.
4) Ask about and Enquire about
We use ask about or enquire (or inquire) about when we talk about getting information about something or someone.
Example: He got angry when they started to ask about / enquire about his private life.
5) Ask after and Enquire after
We use ask after or enquire (or inquire) after to ask for information about a person (but not a thing), particularly concerning their health. Ask/Enquire about is also used.
Example: I’m phoning to ask (or enquire) after/about Mrs. Brown. She’s in Ward 4.
NOTE 1: We use ask for (not ‘enquire for’) to ask someone to give you something or do something.
Example: He finished the drink quickly and asked for another.
NOTE 2: We use enquire into (not ‘ask into’) some organization, event or a person we try to find out facts in order to investigate them.
Example: The body has been set up to enquire into near-accidents reported by airline pilots.
6) Think of and Think about
Think of is preferred when we talk about something that suddenly enters your mind (it occurs to you) and think about when you talk about something that you consider over a longer period.
- He suddenly thought of Hilary. Perhaps she would help. (rather than …thought about…)
- We have been thinking about Jan and her problems for a while. (rather than …thinking of…)
NOTE 1: We use think about (rather than ‘think of’) when we talk about concentrating on something.
Example: Your job is to think about safety and nothing else.
NOTE 2: We use think of (not ‘think about’) to give opinions and ask about them, to talk about an idea, and to talk about remembering something. We also prefer of in the pattern (be) thinking of + ing to talk about intention.
- What do you think of my car? I’ve just bought it.
- I don’t think a lot of his work. (= it’s not very good)
- He thinks a lot of his sister. (= likes/respects her)
- He’s always thinking of ways to increase our sales.
- I know it’s here somewhere. I just can’t think of where I’ve put it.
- I’m thinking of selling y motorbike.
PREPOSITIONS AFTER VERBS (3)
1) Hear about or Hear of
We use hear about or hear of when we talk about gaining information about someone or something.
- I hear about/of this restaurant through Pam.
- You don’t often hear about/of people with cholera in Britain.
NOTE 1: We use hear about (not ‘hear of’) to talk about getting some news about someone or something.
- Have you heard about Jan’s accident?
- Did you hear about the match? I won!
NOTE 2: We use hear of (rather than ‘hear about’) to indicate whether we know about the existence of something or somebody.
- You must have heard of the Amsterdam flower market. It’s famous.
- It was a book by an author I’d never heard of.
NOTE 3: We use hear from when we talk about receiving some communication—e.g. a phone call or letter—from somebody.
- I heard from Pauline recently. She told me she’s moving back toGreece.
- When did you last hear from Don?
2) Laugh at and Laugh about
We can say we laugh at an amusing person, thing or situation, or something we don’t take seriously, when the amusing thin, etc., is present. We use laugh about when we are remembering the amusing person, thing or situation at a later date.
- We spent a happy couple of hours laughing at photos from the party.
- The program was so funny! We laugh about it every time we think of it.
NOTE: If one person is the object of an0other person’s amusement, instead of sharing in the amusement, and consequently suffers, we use laugh at. We don’t use laugh about in this way.
Example: When she fell off her chair, all her friends laughed at her and she started to cry.
3) Agree with, Agree to, Agree on, and Agree about
ç We use agree with to say that two people have the same opinion; to say that you approve of a particular idea or action; or to say that two things match. We also use agree with to talk about things that make us feel healthy or happy.
- Adam thinks we should accept the offer, and I agree with him.
- I agree with letting children choose the clothes they want to wear.
- Tom’s story agreed with that of his son.
- Being on holiday agrees with me. I feel great.
ç We use agree to to say that someone allows something to happen, or to say that someone is prepared to do something.
- Once the government agreed to the scheme it went ahead without delay.
- He agreed to the idea of a barbecue on condition that he could do the cooking.
ç We use agree on to say that two or more people decide something.
Example: We agree on the time and place to meet.
ç We use agree about to say that people have the same opinion on a particular subject. When a decision depends on people’s opinions, we can use either agree on or agree about.
- Something that everyone can agree about is that we all want to be happy.
- We couldn’t agree on/about the color to paint the kitchen.
PREPOSITIONS AFTER VERBS (4)
1) Care about or Care for
We use care about or care for to talk about feeling affection for someone.
- If you really cared about/for me, you wouldn’t spend so much time away from home.
- Jim and Ann are always together. They seem to care about/for each other a lot.
ç Care about: We use care about to talk about something we are (not) concerned about.
- Frank cared about his clothes more than anything else.
- He doesn’t seem to care about the effect smoking has on him.
ç Care for: We use care for to say that we look after someone or something and keep them in good health or condition. We can use take care of in the same way.
- Jean cared for her disabled mother until her death last year. (or Jean took care of…)
- You need to consider how easy it will be to care for the garden. (or …to take care of)
NOTE 1: We also use care for to mean ‘like’, particularly in negative sentences, and to mean ‘want’ in offers. Both these uses of care for are rather formal.
- I don’t care for the theater much.
- Would you care for a cup of coffee?
NOTE 2: We use care without preposition before how, if, what, when, etc. to mean that something is (not) considered important or significant.
- I must buy it. I don’t care how much it costs.
- He often walks along the street singing loudly. He doesn’t seem to care who is around.
- I don’t care if you’re busy. I need the car today!
2) Shout at and Shout to
ç You shout at someone because you are angry with them.
Example: Don’t shout at me, I’m doing my best!
ç You shout to someone who is a long way from you so that they can hear.
Example: The taxi driver shouted to someone across the street. ‘Is the station near here?’
3) Point at and Point to
ç We use point something at when we aim a knife, camera, finger, etc. in a particular direction.
Example: She pointed the knife at me and started to laugh.
ç We use point to when we say that a particular fact suggests that something else is true or will happen.
Example: The increase in house prices points to an upturn in the economy.
NOTE: When you point at or point to something, you show where something is by holding out your finger (we can also use point towards).
Example: The food’s over there, said Toni, pointing at/to/towards the corner of the room.
4) Throw at and Throw to
ç We throw something at something or someone to try to hit them.
Example: A monkey was sitting in the tree, throwing nuts at anyone who walked past.
ç We throw something to someone for them to catch it.
Example: Fletcher picked up the ball and threw it back to the goalkeeper.
5) Wonder about and Wonder at
ç If we wonder about doing something, we think about doing it in the future, or say that we want to know about something or someone.
- I’ve been wondering about visiting Lynn.
- John has looked tired recently, and I’ve started to wonder about his health.
ç If we wonder at something, we say that we are surprised at it or impressed by it. This is literary use.
Example: The children had their faces pressed to the glass of the cage, wondering at the tigers they could see only inches away on the other side.