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Concourse 2

Prepositional verbs

In the office, I'm concentrating on my work

The sentence above has two prepositions.

think What are the two prepositions?
What is different about them?
Click here when you have thought about that.


So, what's the problem?

There are two problems, in fact:

  1. You have to learn the verb plus the preposition as a single piece of language because you cannot guess which preposition you should use.
  2. These verbs are not phrasal verbs so you cannot separate the verb and the preposition.  For example, it is possible to say:
        I cut the food up
        I filled the form in
    because these are phrasal verbs and you can usually separate the verb and the adverb with the object.
    Very often, when the object is a pronoun, you must separate the verb:
        I cut it up
    filled it in
        I cut up it
        I filled in it

    With prepositional verbs you can NEVER separate the verb and the preposition with the object.  So we can say:
        I complained about the food
        I complained about it
        I complained the food about
        I complained it about


Two sorts of prepositional verbs

thinkwrite In this list, five of the sentences are correct and five are wrong.
What do the verbs mean? (use a dictionary if you need one)
Can you see which ones are wrong?
Can you say why?
Click here when you have thought about that and written down the numbers of the wrong and right sentences.
  1. I admitted to the offence
  2. It amounted
  3. I admitted
  4. I argued about the price
  5. I longed
  1. I argued
  2. I looked at the bird
  3. I relied
  4. I looked
  5. He vouched for

Here is a list of common prepositional verbs.  The ones on the left always take an object.  The ones on the right can take an object or they can stand alone without an object.
We call the verbs on the left transitive and the verbs on the right intransitive.  In a dictionary, you will often see that this is marked.

read Look in your dictionary now for any words you do not know and see how transitivity and intransitivity are marked.

Transitive verbs Intransitive or transitive verbs
account for
admit to
amount to
bear on
consist of
count on
long for
rely on
stick to
suspect of
thank for
vouch for
abstain from
approve of
argue about
ask for
care about
comment on
complain about
concentrate on
conform to
connive at
depend on
decide on
hang around
insist on
laugh at
look at
object to
participate in
plan on
quarrel about
row about
succeed in
suffer from
react to
refrain from
talk of
vote for
wish for


Be careful!

Do not think that in this sentence:
    I decided to go
we have the verb decide and the preposition to.
We do not.
This is the verb followed by the to-infinitive of the verb go.
Verbs in English often come linked like this.  For example:
    I want to come to help
    I intend to go later
    I remembered to buy her a present

etc. and we do not have the preposition to in any of these sentences.  They are all verbs followed by a to-infinitive.

The test is to put a noun or an -ing form, after decide and then we have:
    I decided on the blue one
    I decided on holidaying in France
because the preposition which goes with decide is on.

Here is another example:
We can say:
    I plan to have a holiday
but, again, the is the verb followed by the to-infinitive.
When it is followed by a noun or an -ing form, it works like this:
    I plan on seeing him tomorrow
    I plan on a new job next year.

All prepositions in English can be followed by an -ing form.

In the tests at the end, you need to be careful not to make this mistake.

There are three linked tests:

Test 1 Is the sentence right or wrong?
Test 2 Which preposition goes with which verb (1)?
Test 3 Which preposition goes with which verb (2)?