BusinessDay

Using the right prepositions with verbs

Prepositions constitute a serious barrier to second-language users of English. This is because of the fixity that characterises their uses. Using prepositions erroneously does not impede communication process most times, but it does take away the finesse in language use, especially in writing. As such, a great deal of conscious effort is a requisite for deploying prepositions appropriately. This treatise will, therefore, discuss some crucial categories of prepositional usages.

The first category to be discussed in this piece revolves around the prepositions wrongly used with verbs. A number of such collocational mismatches will be juxtaposed alongside their consummate forms. To begin with, “relate” co-occurs with the preposition “to,” not “with,” and people are congratulated “on,” not “for,” something.

She can relate with her neighbours’ predicament (non-standard).

She can relate to her neighbours’ predicament (standard).

Deborah is related to Mr. Anderson (standard).

We had to congratulate him for his marriage (non-standard).

We had to congratulate him on his marriage (standard).

However, keep in mind that we have “congratulate on/for doing something,” as in:

She congratulated him on/for passing the examinations with flying colours (standard).

Note, too, that people do things “of,” not “on,” their own accord. For phrasal verbs, although you can look down “on” people, you can only talk down “to,” not “on,” them. Additionally, people look ahead “to,” not “of,” something.

I came on my own accord (non-standard).

I came of my own accord (standard).

We detest how she talks down on the cleaner (non-standard).

We detest how she talks down to the cleaner (standard).

She is looking ahead of a fruitful discussion with him (non-standard).

She is looking ahead to a fruitful discussion with him (standard).

Other example sentences that are anchored in (not anchored “on”) impeccable prepositional usage are:

The whole experience eventually worked for his advantage (non-standard).

The whole experience eventually worked to his advantage (standard).

My CV is attached with this letter (non-standard).

My CV is attached to this letter (standard).

The students are aspiring for careers in journalism (non-standard).

The students are aspiring to careers in journalism (standard).

The second category reflects verbs that can collocate with two or more prepositional options. We have instances like:

She has no choice but to conform to/with the industry rules and regulations (standard).

My brother was admitted into/to Lagos State University in 2015 (standard).

He dabbled in/at/with drumming sometime last year (standard).

On top of that, prepositional collocations can reflect an aspect of the grammatical dichotomies that exist in British English and American English thus:

My daughter lives in Anselm Street (British).

My daughter lives on Anselm Street (American).

The third category represents the wrong use of prepositions with synonyms. For instance, while it is grammatically permissible to say “consist of,” one cannot say “comprise of,” as evidenced by the sentences below:

The committee comprises of former heads of state (non-standard).

The committee comprises former heads of state (standard).

The committee consists of former heads of state (standard).

Nonetheless, we can say “be comprised of” when comprise is deployed in the passive sense, as in:

The committee is comprised of former heads of state (standard).

Also, peruse the following sentences carefully:

She thoroughly complies with the rules (standard).

She thoroughly conforms with the rules (standard).

She thoroughly adheres with the rules (non-standard).

She thoroughly adheres to the rules (standard).

The fourth category is centred on transitive verbs like “request,” “demand,” “leverage,” “emphasise,” “consolidate,” “enter” and so on, which do not collocate with prepositions, as in:

We are requesting for a piece of land in Abuja (non-standard).

We are requesting a piece of land in Abuja (standard).

My resolve to consolidate on our achievements is unwavering (non-standard).

My resolve to consolidate our achievements is unwavering (standard).

They are discussing about basketball (non-standard).

They are discussing basketball (standard).

She leverages on Instagram to advertise her services (non-standard).

She leverages Instagram to advertise her services (standard).

The children have entered into the study (non-standard).

The children have entered the study (standard).

The teacher emphasised on three points (non-standard).

The teacher emphasised three points (standard).

The villagers are lamenting about the dilapidated roads (non-standard).

The villagers are lamenting the dilapidated roads (standard).

Although one can say:

The villagers are lamenting over the dilapidated roads (standard).

Read also: English as a global language: A new case for Nigerian English

Others are:

We can source for gold from the next community (non-standard).

We can source gold from the next community (standard).

They are contesting for the presidency (non-standard).

They are contesting the presidency (standard).

In British English and American English, some verbs can be used with prepositions (intransitively) or without prepositions (transitively), as in:

She is advocating the increased use of renewable energy (British).

She is advocating for the increased use of renewable energy (American).

I will write to my mother tomorrow (British).

I will write my mother tomorrow (American).

They are clapping the winning side (British).

They are clapping for the winning side (American).

The last category of prepositional usage encompasses those verbs that are inappropriately deployed without prepositions. Typical examples are:

You should not side your brother against your sister (non-standard).

You should not side with your brother against your sister (standard).

They arrived London last month (non-standard).

They arrived in London last month (standard).

Why didn’t you reply his mail (non-standard)?

Why didn’t you reply to his mail (standard)?

She will dispose the rubbish by noon (non-standard).

She will dispose of the rubbish by noon (standard).

This piece has discussed the categories of prepositional usages. Hence, one can rest assured that being mindful of these aspects makes one a brilliant user of the language.

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