Difference between revisions of "Verb+preposition errors"

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Revision as of 20:48, 9 August 2019

The following is a partial and incomplete list of common collocation errors that Asian ESL students tend to make in English. The expressions with asterisks [*] are awkward or incorrect terms used by ESL/EFL learners (English as a second/foreign language) . Expressions with the greater sign [>] indicate that one expression is preferred or more common, especially in more formal English.

    Phrasal verb [*common error] Examples
    # Absorbed in (=very much interested) [*at]
    • The professor was so absorbed in his work that he neglected his social life.
    # Accused of [*for] cf. charge with
    • She accused the man of stealing.
    • The man was charged with murder.
    # Accustomed to [*with] cf. used to
    • I’m accustomed to hot weather.
    • He is used to the heat.
    # Afraid of [*from]
    • Laura is afraid of the dog.
    # Aim at [*on / against] [1]
    • She aimed at the target.
    # All X (generic noun) [all ?of X, all X, all of the X] ; ‘all of the X’ has a more specific nuance – the speaker has particular items in mind
    • All the computers must be turned off when you leave the office. (generic statement; more specific: All the computers)
    • All of the computers must be turned off when you leave the office. (more emphatic)
    # Anxious (troubled) about [*for] Anxious for = wishing very much
    • They are anxious about his health.
    • Parents are anxious for their children’s success.
    # Angry with / at [*against] For persons, with is somewhat more common. We get angry with/at a person but angry at a thing.Also annoyed with, vexed with, indignant with.
    • The teacher was angry with / at him.
    • He was angry at the weather.
    # Arrived at [*to] Use arrive in with countries and large cities.
    • We arrived at the village at night.
    • Mr. Smith arrived in London.
    # Ashamed of [*from] ‘ashamed of’ ≠ ‘shy’ ‘ashamed’ = feeling shame or guilt ‘shy’ = feeling nervous with someone
    • He is now ashamed of his conduct
    •  ?I’m ashamed of / shamed of my teacher → I’m shy toward my teacher.
    # Believe in [*to] ‘to believe in’ = to put trust or faith in‘to believe’ (without in) = to regard something as true
    • We believe in hard work.
    • I believe everything he says.
    # Besides / In addition to / [*Except]
    • We have many more publications besides / in addition to these. (‘besides’ is colloquial)
    # Boast of / about [*for] (‘of’ is more literary, formal, or older style)
    • James boasted about / of his strength.
    # Buy for / atFor exact amounts and sums, ‘for’ is used; ‘at’ is used for weights or measures.
    • We bought a new server for $4000.
    • The material can be synthesized for/at $10 per square meter. The non-synthetic form sells at $18 per square meter on the market.
    # Careful of / with / about [*for] cf. ‘take care of’
    • Elle is very careful about her health.
    • You should be more careful with your money.
    • He takes care of his money.
    # Close to [*from]
    • The new apartment is quite close to the station.
    # Complain about [*for] For illnesses: ‘complain of’
    • Annette complained about the weather.
    • She complained of a sore throat.
    # Composed of [*from]
    • Our class is composed of thirty students.
    # Congratulate on/for On refers to an occasion or event, while for refers more to the reason for congratulating someone.
    • I congratulate you on the New Year. I congratulate you for your successful project.
    # Consist of [*from]
    • Different proposals for calendars for the Martian year include suggestions for a year consisting of 24 months.
    # Contact [*contact to]
    • Please contact your insurance agent rather than the police.
    # Covered with [?by] ‘covered with’ is for descriptions; ‘covered by’ refers to an act or result of covering
    • The mountains are covered with snow.
    • The child was covered in snow. [i.e., was fully covered or enveloped in snow]
    • The car was covered by the debris, but the accident was covered by our insurance.
    # Cure of [*from] The noun ‘cure’ takes ‘for’.
    • The man was cured of his illness.
    • There’s no cure for that disease.
    # Deprive of [*from]
    • Nelson Mandela was deprived of his freedom for years.
    # Die of an illness > die from an illnessThe phrase die of is more common than die from X in contemporary English; the phrase die from X may put slightly more emphasis on X as an active cause.
    • Many people have died of malaria.
    • People die of illness, of hunger, of thirst, of or from wounds; from overwork, by violence, by the sword, by pestilence, in battle, for their country, for a cause, through neglect, on the scaffold, at the stake.
    # Different from [*than]
    • My book is really different from yours.
    # Disappointed by, about or at from[1] by/at/ about[2] with/ inBefore a person we use with or in, before a thing we use at, about, by; and before a gerund we use at
    • Phillipa was disappointed by the low mark she got on the test.
    • Jane was disappointed with/in her son.
    • Keith is very disappointed at not winning the prize.
    # Divide into parts [*in] A thing can also be divided in half or in two.
    • I divided the cake into four pieces.
    • Paul divided the apple in half (or in two) .
    # Doubt: no doubt about / in [*for] Doubtful of‘Doubt about’ may be more common that ‘doubt in’; the latter makes more of a contrast with ‘believe in.’
    • I have no doubt in / about his ability.
    • I’m doubtful of his ability to pass.
    # Dressed in [*with]
    • The woman was dressed in black.
    • The woman was in black.
    # Exception to [*of] With the exception ofExcept for
    • This is an exception to the rules.
    • She like all her subjects with the exception of physics.
    • All the new students are smart except for George.
    # Exchange for [*by] In exchange for
    • He exchanged his collection of match boxes for some foreign stamps.
    • He gave them his old car in exchange for a new one.
    # Fail in [*from]
    • He failed in math last year.
    • He failed chemistry this year.
    # Full of [*with / from] Fill with
    • The jar was full of oil.
    • Jane filled the glass with water.
    # Get rid of [*from]
    • I’ll be glad to get rid of him.
    # Glad about [*from/with] Or with an infinitive: glad to
    • I was glad about receiving your letter.
    • I was glad to receive your letter.
    # Good at (in) Also: ‘bad at, clever at, quick at, slow at,’ etc.; but ‘weak in’ Note: “He is good in class” means that his conduct is good.
    • My sister is good (in math) / at math.
    • He is weak in grammar.
    • He is quite clever at physics, but not so clever when it comes to engineering.
    # Guard against [*from]
    • You must guard against bad habits.
    # Guilty of [*for]
    • He was found guilty of embezzling two million dollars of company funds.
    # Independent of [*from] Dependent on
    • Clare is independent of her parents.
    • The student is overly dependent on his parents.
    # Indifferent to [*for]
    • They are indifferent to politics.
    # Influence on [*to] The verb takes a direct object with no preposition.
    • This has had a great influence on our thinking.
    • This has greatly influenced our thinking.
    # Insist on [*to]
    • He always insisted on his opinion.
    # Interested in [*for] Also: take an interest in
    • She is not interested for in her work.
    • She takes a great interest in music.
    # Jealous of [*from]
    • He is very jealous of his brother.
    # Leave for (a place) [*to]
    • They are leaving to for England soon.
    # Live on / off of [*from] Feed on
    • He lives on his brother’s money. He lives off of his brother’s money.
    • Some birds feed on insects.
    # Look at [?to] [2]
    • Look at his beautiful picture.
    # In my opinion [*according to]
    • In my opinion, this experiment should proceed more cautiously.
    # Panic about [*with]
    • Don’t panic about it.
    # Persist in [*with]
    • He persisted in his silly ideas.
    # Room for [ > place for]
    • Is there room in the lab for another computer?
    # Related to [*with]
    • Their theory is not so novel; it is actually related to an older theory from the 1960s.
    # Spend on / for‘On’ indicates activity, and is more common; ‘for’ indicates the purpose, goal or object.
    • I spend a lot of time on editing.
    • I spend a lot of time on my freelance work.
    • I spent a lot of money for my degree.
    # Tie to (implies movement, goal, or change in position)
    Tie on/onto (implies location)
    • The animal had to be tied to the table. (→ It was previously roaming about.)
    • The animal was tied to the table. (→ resting location)
    # Travel by train [*with the train] (or other vehicle) [3]
    • He traveled by train yesterday.
    # Warn (someone) of [>about] (a danger)
    • Subjects must be warned of the potential for headaches from the experiment.

    1. At denotes direction toward; because at indicates direction or movement toward something, it means the object is not directly or fully affected, e.g.: throw at, shout at, fire at, shoot at; shoot at. When the verb can take a direct object or at, the object in the Verb + DO construction is fully affected by the action, while Verb + at indicates an object that is not fully affected, e.g., shot a goose cf. shot at a goose.
    2. ‘Look to’ is more literary, meaning ‘behold, behold as an example, turn to.’ Also: gaze at, stare at, etc., but look after (= take care of) , look for (=try to find) , look over (=examine) , look into (=examine closely) , look on or upon (=consider) , look down on (=have a low opinion of) , look up to (=respect) , look out for (=expect) , look forward to (= expect with pleasure) , look to (= rely on) .
    3. We travel by train, by boat, by bike; also, by land, by sea, by air, by bus; in a bus or on a bus; by car or in a car, by taxi or in a taxi; on horse-back, on a donkey, on a bicycle; on foot.