Prepositions After Verbs, Adjectives and Nouns. Part 1
Guest Writer | Friday, October 23, 2015
Grammar tips to use prepositions. Part 1
If we compare European languages, the choice of preposition in many expressions may seem quite arbitrary, e.g. French s'interesser à =
German sich interessieren für = English be interested in.
The most common of these expressions may be learnt relatively easily from reading and listening, but others often continue to cause problems for a
long time, partly because of interference from the student's own language (NOTE: this is a different question from that of English PHRASAL VERBS,
where the addition of a preposition or adverbial particle can completely change the meaning of the verb - e.g. get by = manage to survive; look back on = remember).
In reality, a good understanding of how particular prepositions are used in each language can make the choice of the right one much easier.
"About" usually indicates the object of our thoughts or conversation, etc. We can chat / dream / talk / think / worry about something or someone; be angry / anxious / concerned / sorry / worried about s.t. or s.o.; and have a conversation / a dream / a talk / ideas or thoughts about s.t. or s.o. (NOTE: We have a debate or discussion about something, but we debate or discuss something).
What were you talking about?.
We were discussing the latest developments in the Middle East. Naturally, we are worried about them.
Less commonly, mainly with verbs of movement, "about" can mean around (= to different places): get about
/ look about
/ run about
/ stroll about
/ travel about
/ walk about
/ wander about
They were kicking a ball about in the street.
How do these rumours get about?.
With a runabout bus ticket you can make lots of journeys.
Of course, she can't get about as much as she used to.
"At" often refers to the object of observation: gaze / look / peer / stare / have a look / take a look (or a peek) at something
or someone. It can also express our surprised reaction: be amazed / shocked / surprised at s.t or s.o.
"At" sometimes refers to our interaction with people. We can smile or wave at people. To shout at / yell at someone or throw something at someone is an expression of anger. For normal communication
we use to:
I shouted to them, to warn them of the danger.
She threw the ball to Sandra, who thew it to Denise.
Another use of at is after a number of adjectives indicating various degrees of ability or skill. We can be bad / brilliant / clever / good / hopeless / skillful / terrible / terrific at something or doing something: Ron is good at sport but bad at remembering his training sessions.
Remember that we can arrive / be / stay at a specific place (at the airport / the office / school / a hotel, etc.), but we say to arrive
/ be / stay in a town, city or country (in London / in Australia,etc.). We also say to arrive or come home.
"For" doesn't usually present many difficulties. We can do something for someone else or for a cause,
act or speak for someone, be responsible or have a responsibility for s.t or s.o., have a reason for something, pay for s.t., and hunt / look / search / appeal (or conduct a search or make an appeal) / wait for s.t. or s.o.:
Helen did most of the work for me.
He was witing for the bus.
The Director is responsible for all questions of safety.
Scientists are still looking for a cure for cancer.
I don't want anyone to speak for me. I want to speak for myself.
We are still waiting for their response.
The most usual meaning of "from" is from one place to another (drive/ go / hurry / make one's way / return / rush / walk, etc. from A
to B), or from one person or subject to another, including the verbs to borrow / get / receive / steal / take / transfer s.t. from somewhere, someone or something, and such nouns as an influence / inspiration / theft from somewhere, someone, or something:
They drove from Cairo to Capetown.
We had to borrow a lot of money from the bank.
He gets most of his ideas from the popular newspapers.
These paintings were all stolen from private collections.
Similarly, we can translate a text from one language to or into another: She translated the novel from English into French.
Other meanings of from include suffer from (an illness or medical condition): She suffers from hypertension;
apart from (= except): Everybody agreed, apart from David; different from: Their climate is very different from ours; protect someone from a danger.
My elder brother always protected me from school bullies;and prevent someone from doing something (or something from happening).
The fence is designed to prevent immigrants from crossing the border.
Taking a strong line now might prevent them from behaving even worse in the future.(With prevent, the from can be omitted: ... to prevent immigrants crossing the border).
The Grammar blog is written by Stephen Smith who has been a teacher with OISE for over 10 years.