Proper Preposition Phrases

March 30, 2016 – 1:23 pm

On a daily basis, I see and/or hear improper preposition usage. In fact, it drives me crazy when I hear supposedly well educated people on national radio and TV misuse common prepositions in their reporting of the news and current events.

Just to be clear as to what I’m talking about here – a “preposition” is a word that is placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase by modifying another word in the sentence. My dictionary defines a preposition as; “…a word governing a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element…”. In less technical terms, prepositions are those little connector words that join words and/or phrases to other words and/or phrases.

Examples of common prepositions are: about, above, after, as, at, before, behind, between, beyond, but, by, down, during, in, into, of, off, on, under, until, up, upon, with, within, to name a few. These words almost always function as an adjective or adverb.

Below are about a dozen typical preposition phrases in which I often see/hear a preposition misused in the news media and on popular TV shows.

agree (on), agree (to), agree (with)
We now agree on the terms of the contract.
I intend to agree to his proposal after the modifications.
His observations agree with my findings.

answer (for), answer (to)
He will have to answer for what he did last night.
She will have to answer to her boss on that matter.

begin (by), begin (from), begin (with)
I will begin by taking the oath of allegiance.
The race will begin from the parking lot behind the car dealership.
The project will begin with an environmental assessment.

bored (by), bored (with); NOT “bored of”
She was really bored by last night’s concert.
Over time, I became bored with the whole thing.

capable (of); NOT “capable to”
I knew that they were capable of much more.
The coach told me I was capable of playing at a much higher level.

correspond (to), correspond (with)

Once it is repainted it will correspond to mine.
While away on course I made it a habit to correspond with my parents by e-mail.

impressed (by), impressed (with); NOT “impressed of”
Jason was impressed by their new approach to the issue.
Julia was quite impressed with Susan’s behavior.

graduate (from), graduate (to); NOT “graduated college”
When do you expect to graduate from college?
After the initial phase you will graduate to the next level.

invest (in), invest (with)
Once I receive the funds I will invest in a mix of stocks and bonds.
He decided to invest his savings with the bank.

live (off), live (on)
Once they move to the farm they plan to live off the land.
When I turn 65 I will start to live on a pension.

proceed (to), proceed (with)
After that is done, I will proceed to the next step.
Please proceed with what you were doing when we arrived.

report (on), report (to)
After his assessment he will report on the situation.
He will report to the recruitment center next Monday.

suited (to), suited (for)
They seem very suited to each other.
Brad is well suited for that accounting position.

The above are just a few examples of proper preposition usage in some of the more common preposition phrases. Please note that the four or five phrases for which I have highlighted the NOT case are ones that I see/hear misused almost every single day.

As I stated above, I see these types of errors in preposition usage every single day in the local newspaper and I hear them on the radio. In the case of television, you would think that many of those writers never took a basic course in English usage; and I’m talking about scripts for TV shows, as well as newscasts.

So, here’s a word of warning – if you are trying to improve your English by watching television or listening to the radio, don’t assume that everything you hear is correct. Often it isn’t. Really! So, if you read or hear something that doesn’t seem quite right, look it up.

Below is a link to a list of more than one hundred examples
of correct preposition usage involving common words and/or expressions:


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  1. 29 Responses to “Proper Preposition Phrases”

  2. Sincerely speaking, this is highly educating and knowledgeable.
    Thank you so much for the teachings.

    By Michael on Mar 31, 2016

  3. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’ve been waiting for something like this. It is frustrating editing copy that uses prepositions incorrectly. People think they are being creative but it is annoying.

    By Toni Kirby on Mar 31, 2016

  4. Thank you so much. Its very useful.

    By Arif shaikh on Mar 31, 2016

  5. Thank you for the educational blog. Last year I wrote a blog in which I said that when I graduated from HS I did not know the difference between a noun and a verb. Then I went to college at Texas A&M and when I graduated I still did not know the difference. It was not until I was at the F.B.I. Academy that I had an instructor in report writing that finally taught me how to understand and use verbs, nouns, pronouns, and so forth. But you made your point very well and very quickly. Thank you.

    By James Bailey on Mar 31, 2016

  6. Thank you Shaun!

    By Samira on Mar 31, 2016

  7. Shaun, thank you. Excellent.

    By Veronique on Mar 31, 2016

  8. Informative. I like it.

    By Subhash Sekhar on Mar 31, 2016

  9. This is really informative. Thanks shaun

    By Sunil on Mar 31, 2016

  10. Thank you Shaun,This is what I was looking for on the usage of proper prepositions.

    By Gul Khoso on Apr 1, 2016

  11. Another common mistake is “to acquiesce in” and NOT acquiesce to.

    I find it incredible that so many BBC presenters make basic mistakes in English usage and grammar.

    By A H Faraj on Apr 1, 2016

  12. Thanks, Shaun. I like rekindling what used to be natural. I blame FB myself.

    By James Holdaway on Apr 1, 2016

  13. Good point above, A. H. Farah. I experience the same problem here in Canada with our national broadcaster the CBC; both radio and TV announcers. Numerous errors in grammar and word choice.

    By Shaun on Apr 1, 2016

  14. I Really appreciated the lesson. Very educational and so simply taught. I love the way it is given to us, so simply presented and explained. So understandable. These kind of lessons are very beneficial. I for sure will benefit a lot from your lessons.

    Thank you so much!

    By Zahia on Apr 1, 2016

  15. Thanks. Very Useful.

    By Ni Ni Win Shein on Apr 1, 2016

  16. Excellent. I often get confused and this is of great help. Thanks

    By Rukhsana on Apr 2, 2016

  17. This lesson is has refreshed my memory of the correct use of some prepositions. Thank you Shaun.

    By Mmayen on Apr 2, 2016

  18. Thank you very much. Very useful.

    By Ma. Lourdes Sales Agad on Apr 4, 2016

  19. Dear Shaun and friends,
    Thank you for the clear way of explaining the prepositions. It allows us to use them properly and clearly.
    Nice to hear spring in here must be the best time of the year. With the El Nino around we are having hot weather with occasional rain just enough for the plants.

    By Asiah on Apr 4, 2016

  20. Thank you so very much, you are a great help.

    By Princess on Apr 4, 2016

  21. Hello Shaun,
    Thank you very much, it was very interesting.

    By Mariam Hussain on Apr 4, 2016

  22. Thank you, quite useful.

    By Carmen Johnson on Apr 5, 2016

  23. Thank you Shaun. Actually I was looking for this. It is very important for me but the problem is when I write I could not use it properly. I have a one request to you. How can I improve my sentence construction? I love to write easy but correct sentences. Please let me know.

    By shaheen on Apr 6, 2016

  24. Thanks Shaheen,
    As for your question: “How can I improve my sentence construction?”

    Two things:
    1. Practice, practice, practice…
    2. After (or while) writing a sentence, read it out loud to yourself. Does it sound correct?

    I still use No. 2 every time I write something. It’s easy to tell whether something “sounds” right or not. If it doesn’t, change it.

    By Shaun on Apr 7, 2016

  25. Thanks for this Shaun. Grammar is something we can all use frequent polishing on and your blog is a great place to get it. I hope I used the preposition correctly! :)

    By John Oswald on Apr 11, 2016

  26. Verbs followed by a preposition actually have a name. They are called phrasal verbs. While these are examples of informal language, they are technically correct. I hope this helps ASSIST WITH your knowledge.

    By D. Austin on Apr 14, 2016

  27. Thanks D. Austin. Your input is appreciated.

    By Shaun on Apr 14, 2016

  28. Sorry for (or ‘about’ :-)) commenting so late. Shaun, although I am venturing slightly outside the main thrust of your topic, I believe this application belongs in your article. Moreover, this too is a common error perpetrated by writers in the media. “To”, a short but truly versatile word, is used both as a preposition and an infinitive, and often misused. It happens when ‘to’ is followed by a ‘verbal noun’ rather than a simple noun. Example: “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow”. It is amazing how often you read “I look forward to see you tomorrow.” Tricky variations are “He opted to brave the weather without an umbrella” and “An argument with John led Bill to braving the weather without an umbrella.” Shaun, please keep them up, especially your articles on how these short but immensely powerful words sometimes make writing elegant sentences a terrific challenge.

    By Paddy on May 5, 2016

  29. This is excellent Shaun. Thanks a pile.

    By Emad on Jan 2, 2017

  30. Thank you Shaun.

    By Bruce on Jan 3, 2017

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