123. Prepositional Verbs Containing a Noun

.

Penguins

Some combinations of a verb + preposition need a noun or pronoun in between

.

ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF PREPOSITIONAL VERBS

Some English prepositions are able to combine closely with various verbs, which are then often called “prepositional”. Elsewhere in this blog simple verb-preposition combinations like DEPEND ON, COPE WITH and ATTEND TO are given extensive consideration (see, for example, 42. Unnecessary Prepositions44. Troublesome Prepositional Verbs and 108. Formal & Informal Words). Here I wish to examine prepositional verbs that have a noun or pronoun between the verb and the preposition, as in PROVIDE (noun) WITH, SUSPECT (noun) OF and BLAME (noun) FOR.

Perhaps the main problem with verbs of this kind is difficulty remembering what the preposition is. The reason may be that the noun in the middle somehow prevents it from being linked as easily with the verb as it is in two-word combinations. To help overcome this problem, the approach will be to list common verbs like BLAME, along with their prepositions, to indicate some subclasses, and to warn of possible confusions.

An initial point to appreciate is that the presence of the preposition also necessitates a noun or pronoun after it (see 84. Seven Things to Know about Prepositions), which means there are two nouns and/or pronouns altogether after verbs like BLAME, like this:

(a) Some theorists BLAME population growth FOR the world’s poverty.

Some grammarians suggest that the two nouns after verbs like BLAME are two different grammatical objects (for details of objects, see 8. Object-Dropping Errors). However, it is interesting to note that the noun after the preposition, along with the preposition itself – for the world’s poverty in (a) – can be left unmentioned if the meaning is clear from the context, whereas this is not usually a possibility with ordinary prepositional verbs like DEPEND ON.

.

VERBS WITH A VARIABLE OBJECT

Some verbs with a following object and preposition nearly always have the same noun for their object, while others allow more variation. Where variation exists, the object may be a person or a thing, but is more commonly a person. Here are some important verbs of this kind. The abbreviation SB means “somebody” while STH means “something”. What should each preposition be? (Answers below).

PrepVb

Answers

1. OF;  2. FOR;  3. WITH;  4 = FOR;  5. WITH;  6. WITH;  7. WITH/TO;  8. TO;  9. ON;  10. ABOUT/OVER;  11. OF;  12. OF;  13. INTO;  14. TO;  15. IN;  16. WITH;  17. WITH;  18. OF;  19. TO;  20. IN;  21. FOR;  22. FROM;  23. WITH;  24. FOR;  25. TO;  26. OF;  27. FROM;  28. FOR;  29. WITH/FOR;  30. OF;  31. FROM;  32. TO;  33. FROM;  34. WITH;  35. OF;  36. FOR;  37. FOR;  38. WITH;  39. FOR/WITH;  40. OF/ABOUT;  41. WITH

The variability of some of these prepositions is notable. The choice between about and over after CONSULT seems a free one – either is correct. However, with REWARD, the meaning changes: with indicates the reward, for the action that won it, like this:

(b) Parents can reward their children with small presents.

(c) Parents should reward their children for good behaviour.

It is even possible for both of these preposition phrase types to appear together in the same sentence. Similarly, after TREAT, with shows the treatment, for the problem necessitating it. After WARN, of shows a potential or future problem, about an already-existing problem. TAKE can go not just with for but also with to or from, though these latter two are arguably not such a true combination; TAKE … FOR … means “believe … to be …”.

The way of putting verbs like the above into the passive voice is fairly consistent: the subject becomes the first noun/pronoun after the verb – the one with no preposition in front. This is children in (b) and (c). One verb to be careful with is EXPLAIN. Consider this:

(d) Teachers must sometimes explain grammar to students.

The passive equivalent is:

(e) Grammar must sometimes be explained (by teachers) to students.

It is not possible to say *Students must sometimes be explained grammar! The probable reason for this common error is the fact that EXPLAIN has a similar meaning to various other verbs that do allow a noun after to to become their subject when they are passive, such as GIVE, SEND and TEACH (see 10. Words with Unexpected Grammar and 126. Verbs with an Indirect Object). One way to start with students and still use EXPLAIN is by using HAVE: … must sometimes have grammar explained to them (see 116. Rarer Uses of HAVE).

Four verbs, BLAME, PRESENT, PROVIDE and SUPPLY, can reverse the positions of the two nouns after them, changing the preposition in the process. Compare:

BLAME SB FOR STH = BLAME STH ON SB

PRESENT SB WITH STH = PRESENT STH TO SB 

PROVIDE SB WITH STH = PROVIDE STH FOR SB

SUPPLY SB WITH STH = SUPPLY STH FOR/TO SB

PRESENT, PROVIDE and SUPPLY need to be handled carefully because they have different grammar from GIVE, a verb with very similar meaning: they must always have a following preposition whereas GIVE may have none (see 126. Verbs with an Indirect Object). For more on this contrast, see 140. Words with Unexpected Grammar 2.

.

VERBS WITH A FIXED OBJECT

Combinations of a particular verb with a particular object and a particular preposition, e.g. MAKE USE OF, fall into the category of collocations – non-grammatical word partnerships. More about collocations can be read in the post 111. Words with their Own Preposition and in a worksheet downloadable from this blog’s Learning Materials page.

Other examples of fixed-object verbs include the following. It will be seen that MAKE is involved quite often (see also 141. Ways of Using MAKE).

ATTACH IMPORTANCE TO

CATCH SIGHT/A GLIMPSE OF

DECLARE WAR ON

GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF

GIVE/PAY ATTENTION TO

GIVE WAY TO

HAVE AN EFFECT ON

HAVE TROUBLE WITH (for more with HAVE, see 116. Rarer Uses of HAVE)

KEEP PACE WITH

KEEP TRACK OF

LOSE TOUCH WITH

LOSE TRACK OF

MAKE ALLOWANCE(S) FOR

MAKE AMENDS FOR

MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF

MAKE FUN OF

MAKE MUCH OF

PUT AN END/A STOP TO

PUT/PLACE EMPHASIS ON

PUT THE BLAME ON

SET FIRE TO

SET ONE’S HEART ON

TAKE ACCOUNT OF

TAKE CARE OF

TAKE NOTE OF

Note that GIVE ATTENTION and PAY ATTENTION mean different things. Consider this:

(f) Einstein gave/paid attention to the problem of gravity.

Gave here suggests that Einstein merely turned his attention away from something else. Paid, however, suggests that he increased his attention to the maximum: perhaps he had been only a little interested before in the problem of gravity, or even daydreaming! There is an option of adding his (or other possessive adjective) after GIVE. An alternative to GIVE is TURN, a verb that must have his or equivalent.

Also noteworthy is TAKE CARE OF. Its common meaning is not “supervise” or “give caring attention to” (English uses LOOK AFTER for that), but rather “resolve” or “deal with”, as in take care of complaints.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s