Verbs and prepositions

Do you know how to use the prepositions for, from, in, of, on, to and with after verbs?

Look at these examples to see how prepositions are used after verbs.

Can you wait for me to finish my lunch?
I'm relying on my co-worker to answer all my emails while I'm on holiday.
Sun cream protects you from getting burnt.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Verbs and prepositions: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

When a verb is part of a longer sentence, it is often followed by a specific preposition. 

I agree with Mike.
She listens to the radio a lot.
He thanked me for the flowers.

There are no grammatical rules to help you know which preposition is used with which verb, so it's a good idea to try to learn them together. To help you do this, write new vocabulary in your notebook in a sentence or phrase. Here are some common verbs for each preposition.

Verbs with for

They're waiting for a bus.
He apologised for being late. 
I applied for the job but I didn't get it.
How do you ask for a coffee in Polish?
I can't go out tonight because I have to prepare for my interview tomorrow.

Verbs with from

This spray should protect you from mosquitoes.
Has he recovered from the accident yet?
She won an award because she saved someone from drowning.
I suffer from allergies.

Verbs with in

She doesn't believe in coincidences.
Our company specialises in computer software.
You have to work hard if you want to succeed in life.

Verbs with of

I don't approve of hunting animals for their fur.
Our dog died of old age.
This shampoo smells of bananas.

Verbs with on

Their decision will depend on the test results.
The film is based on the novel by Boris Pasternak.
If you make so much noise, I can't concentrate on my work.
Come on! We're relying on you!
We don't agree on anything but we're still good friends.

Verbs with to

What kind of music do you like listening to?
Can I introduce you to my grandfather?
Please refer to the notes at the end for more information.
Nobody responded to my complaint.
She apologised to me the next day.

Verbs with with

I agree with everything you've said.
My assistant will provide you with more information if you need it.
We're finding it difficult to deal with the stress.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Verbs and prepositions: Grammar test 2

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Language level

B1 English level (intermediate)
Profile picture for user dipakrgandhi

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 10:38

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Sir, can we say 'you was'

Hi dipakrgandhi,

People do say that sometimes! However, it's not considered correct in standard English.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bo Bo Kyaw on Sat, 20/08/2022 - 16:22

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Hello sir,
In these two sentences, what is the difference between on to and onto?
Can we use both?

1.This window looks out onto the lake.
2.The living room, the biggest room in the house, looks out on to a beautiful garden.

Hello Bo Bo Kyaw,

In these examples both on to and onto are possible.

This is true of most examples. However, when on is part of the verb phrase (i.e. it is part of a multi-word verb), you should always use two words. For example:

1. Here the verb is 'put' and 'on' is not part of it, so both options are correct:

  • I put the bag on to the table.
  • I put the bag onto the table.

2. Here the verb is 'catch on' (meaning realise or begin to understand) and 'on' is part of the multi-word verb, so you cannot use 'onto':

  • She caught on to what he meant after a few moments.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gopal Debnath on Thu, 21/07/2022 - 07:41

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1. Could explain me the difference between (In the backdrop of sth/against the backdrop)
2. Baked bricks with lime plaster were used in the dockyards of London.
Here, (dockyards of London) means the dockyards belong to London (the dockyards built in London).
If I place "In" in the place of "of" ,then above sentence will become (Baked bricks with lime plaster were used in the dockyards in London). And that means (the dockyards which were in London) , not means that (the dockyards which were built in London).
Please let me know whether my 2nd explanation is correct??

Hi Gopal Debnath,

1. They mean the same thing, but "against" is more commonly used than "in" in this phrase. For some examples, see section 1.1 from Lexico dictionary: https://www.lexico.com/definition/backdrop Almost all the examples there use "against the backdrop".

2. Yes, I think that's right. But perhaps the more important question is whether this is a meaningful difference. A "dockyard in London" is also a "dockyard of London", and vice versa - a dockyard in London was also built in London. The meanings overlap. 

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Please help me distinguish them. sentences such as--
1. HC asks ED to take arrested Minister to AIIMS in Odisha.
2.HC ASKS ED to take arrested Minister to AIIMS of Odisha.
When to use "In" and when to use" Of" in these kind of situation.

Hello Gopal Debnath,

Since Odisha is a province or a state I think the correct preposition here would be 'in'.

We use 'in' for these kinds of locations (states, countries, cities etc). We might use 'of' to show ownership or belonging of some kind: the capital of India, the state building of Odisha etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mayura on Tue, 12/07/2022 - 16:22

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Hello, Sir!
I wanted to know if the preposition "at" after the adjectives is correct.
1. She is intelligent at maths.
2. She is smart at maths.
3. She is clever at maths.
4. She is good at maths. (This is what I usually see.)
Best Wishes!

Hello Mayura,

Sentence 4 is correct and natural; as you say, it's very common to say that someone is 'good at' something like a skill or subject. It's also possible to say 'clever at' with a skill or subject. Both 'good at' and 'clever at' are used in this way to talk about a person's ability to perform a specific skill.

It sounds a little odd to me to try to do the same thing with the words 'intelligent' or 'smart'. Anyone would understand 1 and 2, but I don't think you'd hear them or see them in writing very often, and I couldn't find examples of them in the dictionary (if you follow the links and study the example sentences, you'll see what I mean). I suppose because we generally think of intelligence (which is what an intelligent or smart person has) as a general feature of a person. Even if we talk about, for example, 'emotional intelligence', it refers more to a person's understanding than their skills.

As you can see if you follow the links, this dictionary is especially useful for finding what prepositions are used after different adjectives.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Avianna on Thu, 10/02/2022 - 18:20

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Hello. Could you, please, clarify which option is correct "fill in the gaps" or "fill the gaps"?

Hello Avianna,

It depends on what you mean. If you're writing instructions for a gap-fill exercise, that is, one that asks people to complete a sentence with a word or words, then 'fill in the gaps' is the form to use. Some of the tasks on our website, for example, are exercises where you have to fill in the gaps.

In other contexts where you're talking about trying to make something complete, 'fill the gap' is probably the form you need to use. 

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 15/01/2022 - 20:34

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Hello. Could you please help me? Which one is correct or both are?
- The internet has stopped young people (talking - from talking) to each other.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

They're both correct, but there can be a subtle difference in meaning:

'to stop doing something' means 'to finish' or 'to not continue', and 'to stop someone (from) doing something' ('from' is sometimes omitted) means 'to prevent'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Swan Htet Myint on Sat, 30/10/2021 - 12:04

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I have learnt that prepositional phrase can be adjective,for example,The girl in the room and adverbial phrase.I would like to know
the difference between preposition after verbs and adverbial prepositional phrase.

Hello Swan Htet Myint,

The explanation on this page is about verbs that require a preposition before their object. In a sense, the preposition doesn't change the meaning of the verb; it's just that we use the preposition with that verb when it has that meaning. It's not very logical, but it's the way people speak!

A prepositional phrase isn't directly related to a verb. It begins with a preposition (which is a single word) and it includes the object of the preposition as well as any words that go with the object (for example, articles or adjectives). For example, consider 'I live in the red house'. 'I' is the subject, 'live' is the verb, and 'in the red house' is a prepositional phrase -- 'in' is the preposition, 'the red house' is the object of the preposition ('the' is an article and 'red' is an adjective.

We could also say that this prepositional phrase is an adverbial because it has an adverbial function in this sentence -- it tells the listener *where* I live (describing location is one of use of adverbials). So it's an adverbial prepositional phrase.

You can see more examples of this on our Adverbials of location page: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/adverbials-loca…

I hope that helps you make more sense of this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Swan Htet Myint,

Yes, it is an adverbial prepositional phrase -- that is, a prepositional phrase used as an adverbial.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 09:35

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Could you please explain whether the "as" here used to introduce a contrasting is acting as a preposition or conjunction? Can conjunction be followed by a preposition? 1. He earns $80,000 a year, as against my $40,000. In this subordinate clause, what is the subject and what here "as" is referring to? 2. As is often the case with children, Amy was completely better by the time the doctor arrived. Could you please explain to me the construction of the subordinate clause? Why in this case "angry" is succeeded by "as he was"? Otherwise, it should be " as he was angry"? What is the reason why the sentence is constructed like this and explain the pattern (like adjective is placed before subordinate clause) that would be useful for me in future usage? 3. Angry as he was, he couldn't help smiling.

Hello Mussorie,

I'm afraid this kind of question goes beyond what we can provide in the comments section. The comments section is intended for short anwers to questions relating to the tasks or explanations on the page, not to provide in-depth analysis of examples from elsewhere.

 

We're all teachers here and we try to provide as much help as we can, but what you're asking for here is really almost an individual lesson and as a small team offering a free service to many thousands of users every day it's just not possible for us to provide this. There are forums on the internet which are devoted to discussing these kinds of questions, however, which you might find helpful, such as the relevant Stack Exchange forums:

https://english.stackexchange.com

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Tue, 03/08/2021 - 08:58

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Could you please explain to me the meanings of the two sentences and which one is correct? 1.I have lots of experience in cooking and cleaning. 2.I have lots of experience of cooking and cleaning. What is the difference between experience in and experience of? When should we use them? Please provide some examples.

Hello Mussorie,

We use experience in when we are talking about experience gained consciously as part of our professional or personal development. You can have experience of working in a certain field, for example, or participating in certain activities, but you can cannot have experience in things that simply happen to you like an accident or a natural disaster.

Experience of is more general. It simply means something is a part of your lived experience. This could be something you've chosen to do, as above, or something which has happened to you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Sun, 25/07/2021 - 07:29

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Could you please explain to me the functionality and meaning of the following structures? 1. Verb + direct object Eg: He dreamed a story. 2. Verb + preposition + noun Eg: He dreamed of a story. What is the difference in meaning between the sentences? Explain the relationship of the two structures in general (applicable to all examples).

Hello Mussorie,

1 implies more of an action of creation, though please note this use is far less common than the way it's used in 2. If you consult the example sentences in the dictionary, you can see that 1 is unusual (or maybe not even there).

I'm afraid we're not generally able to provide extended explanations of grammar and vocabulary such as what you're requesting here.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tim on Sun, 04/07/2021 - 11:51

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Hi in the following sentences could someone guide me if the verb is transitive or intransitive. 1) The crow was flying high in the sky. 2) He was still thinking about his problem. 3) He was jumping on the floor. I think they are intransitive but I'm not sure about them either.

Hello Tim,

That's right -- these are intransitive verbs. They don't have a direct or indirect object; the phrases after them are prepositional or adverbial phrases.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, So does it mean that a transitive verb can have both direct or indirect object?

Hello Tim,

Yes, that's correct. There are different types of transitive verbs -- some admit only one object (e.g. 'eat'), whereas others can have two (e.g. 'give'). Some grammars even speak of transitive verbs that can have three objects. You can read more about all of this at the beginning of the Transitive verb Wikipedia article.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Thu, 24/06/2021 - 21:29

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Could you please explain the difference between the two sentences and when to use them(reason)? 1.I don't approve of your decision. 2.I don't approve your decision (incorrect), why is the structure incorrect?

Hi Mussorie,

There are two different meanings of approve here:

  • to have a positive opinion about something, e.g. 65% of the survey respondents approved of the new president. (approve of + object). This is the meaning in your sentence 1.
  • to officially accept or agree to something, e.g. The president approved the proposal. (approve + object). 

With this second meaning, somebody could say I approve your decision (affirmative), as an official statement of acceptance of that person's decision. But the negative version (I don't approve your decision) is less likely. The reason is that approve is a performative verb (also called a 'speech act verb' - a verb which performs the act that it describes when somebody says it, e.g. I promise / I apologise). If someone wants to officially say 'no' to someone's decision, they might prefer to use another performative verb (e.g. I reject your decision), rather than using approve in the negative, to convey this 'officialness'.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Thu, 24/06/2021 - 14:09

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"I don't approve of you. Our dog died of you. This shampoo smells of you." Who is "you"??...

Hello Rafaela1,

These sentences sound a bit odd for various reasons. If we don't approve of something someone did, we'd normally say 'I don't approve of your behavior' or 'of your decision' or something more specific than the whole person.

When we speak about someone dying, we don't normally use a personal pronoun that refers to a person, but rather a disease, condition or something abstract such as an emotion (e.g. 'of grief'). 

The case of 'smells of you' is similar -- it sounds a little unnatural, as we'd usually say 'smells like' a person.

It's not that the forms you ask about are impossible; they are grammatically correct, but we don't tend to use them that way.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank Kirk, Owing to you, I came to enjoy learning English. Your teaching makes learning English easier :)

Submitted by Mussorie on Sun, 20/06/2021 - 19:56

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Could you please explain to me when to use which format? Is there a trick to remember the usage? 1.adjective +preposition+verb-ing(gerund) Eg: I was afraid of fighting a war. 2.adjective +verb-ing(present participle) Eg: I am busy watching the game. And one more question to it is that in the second sentence, is the "watching" acting as an object complement to busy or acting as a present participle phrase to the subject?

Submitted by Mussorie on Sun, 20/06/2021 - 11:22

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Could you please explain the meaning and what is the difference between them? 1.I am tired of fighting the war (adjective followed by the preposition) and I am tired fighting the war (adjective followed by a gerund) if the second sentence is wrong, why is it wrong? In general, is the structure "adjective followed by gerund" wrong? Eg: I am busy writing a test if this is true in case, then why is the sentence above "gerund followed by an adjective wrong? In the second sentence, is the meaning same or is there any difference between them? if it is, then why? In case (the second sentence in the second question is wrong, why so?) 2.This is no need to read and this is of no need to read.

Hello Mussorie,

We use tired of + an object (which may be a gerund) to describe an emotional state rather than physical exhaustion. It means something like I'm bored of / I'm not interested in continuing / I've lost motivation.

 

We use adjective + -ing form (a participle here, not a gerund) to describe how we feel while we are doing something. For example:

I'm relaxed running in the morning = I feel relaxed when I am running

I'm sleepy watching this film = I feel sleepy when I am watching it (possibly because the film is boring)

I think your context is unlikely because fighting a war is such an extreme situation that being tired is not really something we'd draw attention to; it seems too weak a reference for the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, peter Could you please address the second part of the question? That means in the above two structures there is no trick to remember, but it is based on the context and adjective, right.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 24/06/2021 - 08:01

In reply to by Mussorie

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Hello Mussorie,

I'm not sure what you mean by trick to remember here. The two structures express different meanings, so it's a question of what you want to say. There are a number of adjectives which follow a similar pattern:

tired of + -ing vs tired + -ing

interested in + -ing vs interested + -ing

bored of + -ing vs bored + -ing

 

Your other sentences are incorrect:

This is no need to read and this is of no need to read.

 

Need is a noun and we would use 'there' as a dummy subject:

There is no need to read this.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain the situation in which they are used and their meaning in that situation? 1.tired of + -ing vs tired + -ing

Hello again Mussorie,

I explained tired of in my first answer:

We use tired of + an object (which may be a gerund) to describe an emotional state rather than physical exhaustion. It means something like I'm bored of / I'm not interested in continuing / I've lost motivation.

I also explained the use of adjective + -ing, which includes tired + -ing:

We use adjective + -ing form (a participle here, not a gerund) to describe how we feel while we are doing something.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kristeine on Sat, 05/06/2021 - 17:34

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Hello sir, I'm a little confused between know of and know about. Give me some examples Thanks

Hello Kristeine,

Both know of something and know about something can mean that we have heard about it:

I know of this from a friend.

I know about this from a friend.

Know about something can also mean that we have some knowledge on the subject:

I know about this as I studied it at university.

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tim on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 06:51

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I fail to understand what word is the subject in this sentence Is this the same jacket you gifted me? Since 'Is' is the helping verb here so is 'this' the subject of this sentence? Please help

Hello Tim,

The subject is this.

This is a yes/no question with the verb be, so the subject and verb are inverted. If you make the sentence a statement rather than a question then the subject becomes obvious:

This is the same jacket...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by muratt on Wed, 10/03/2021 - 15:52

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Good evening. I am a bit confused whether if I can use a noun before the gerund 'taking' in the below example. • I advised him taking the train. • I advised him to take the train. Are the above correct?

Hello muratt,

The construction using advise with an object is: advise sb to do sth.

I advised him to take the train.

The constuction without an object is: advise doign sth.

I advised taking the train.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aysn on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 19:20

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Dear team, I don't understand one thing in this sentence. "Officials in Japan issue Covid rules for the Tokyo games. I learnt some verbs have prepositions in their patterns such as- accuse of* doing something - Although the verb in sentence which I wrote (issue) has not verb pattern with preposition for, preposition for is used. Can you clean my confusing brain? Do I mix the grammar topics?

Hello Aysn,

Not all prepositions are used because of verb patterns. Some are tied to nouns, some to adjectives and some simply have their own meaning.

I think 'for' in this sentence is associated with the noun 'rules'. You can talk about rules for a game, rules for admittance to a programme etc. That's not to say that we always use 'for' with 'rules', of course, but it is quite a common occurrence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team