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018 Understanding Dependent Prepositions After Verbs

Understanding verbs + dependent prepositions

Hi everyone and welcome back to the Art of Business English. This week we have the first episode in a 3-part series on prepositions. Just the other day one of my students was complaining that they didn’t really understand prepositions in English, even though she has an advanced English level. So, I thought I would put together this three-part series to help everyone better understand how prepositions work and some of the fixed forms that they have.

The first thing to note is that this episode does not look at things like prepositions for movement, place or time. We are going to focus on more advanced structures which have a fixed form. The best thing about learning dependent prepositions or structures with a fixed form is that they are just that, fixed meaning, once you know them then you know them forever as they don’t change.

Today’s episode is divided into three parts. Firstly, we are going to look at what dependent prepositions are, then we are going to look at a common list of dependent prepositions with their translation and finally I will give you some example sentences to put them into context.

Before we start, you may be asking, how will this help my business English. Well, it’s simple really, many of these dependent prepositions after verbs are used on a daily basis in many areas of business. You will see from the example sentences how that are used in a business context.

OK, let’s get started.

What are dependent prepositions after verbs?

So, what are dependent prepositions. Well, many verbs or expressions when followed by an object require a preposition to complete the meaning of the verb or expression. These prepositions must be included otherwise the verb or expressions is incomplete. A typical one is listen to. Listen alone is escuchar, but when we put an object pronoun, such as, me. Then we need to include the preposition to. So, listen to me. It is wrong to say listen me.

In my experience I have also seen Spanish speakers make the reverse mistake. What do I mean? Well, in Spanish, dependent prepositions are less common, however, one that is frequently used is llamar a. For example, llamo a John a las 7. So, by reverse mistake, I mean that Spanish speakers apply this preposition in English. As such, they usually say, I call to John at 7. This is incorrect. The verb to call in English does not have the dependent preposition to after it, in fact it has no dependent preposition.

From these examples we can see that dependent prepositions are important and help improve fluency. The reason why they are important to learn is because there is natural interference with our mother tongue or native language. Meaning we naturally translate what we assume to be the appropriate preposition, and this affects the accuracy of our speech. For example, many Spanish speakers assume that because pensar en, in Spanish is followed by en, then in English is must be, think in. This is another common mistake. The dependent prepositions after to think can only be of or about.

Right, now that we understand what dependent prepositions are and their importance to fluency and accuracy in speech, we can now look at some common examples of verbs which are followed by a dependent preposition. 

Verbs followed by dependent prepositions

Verb + preposition
accuse somebody of
add to
agree with somebody
Estar de acuerdo con
agree on something
Acordar en
aim at/for
Apuntar a
apologise for
Pedir perdón por
apply for a job
Aplicar para un trabajo
(dis)approve of
argue with/about
Discutir por/sobre
arrest somebody for
Detener por
attend to
Ocuparse de
believe in
Crear en
belong to
Pertenecer a
blame somebody for
Echarle la culpa
comment on
complain about
Quejarse de
concentrate on
Centrarse en
congratulate on + verb (–ing)
Felicitar a alguien por
consent to
consist of
Consistir en
deal with
Tratar con
decide on
Optar por
excuse somebody for
insist on
Insistir en
laugh at
Reírse de
object to something
Oponerse a
praise somebody for
Alabar por
prevent somebody from doing something
Impedir que alguien haga algo
refer to
Hacer referencia a
rely on
Confiar en
smile at
Sonreír a
succeed in
Tener éxito en
stand for
thank somebody for
Agradecer a alguien por
volunteer to
Ofrecerse para hacer algo
warn somebody about
Advertirle a alguien

there we have quite an extensive list of verbs followed by dependent preposition. Now that we know their meaning let’s look at a few of them in context.

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Example sentences in context

In the last part of this episode I will be giving you some example sentences with a business focus in mind.

Business situation
Verb + preposition
Example sentence
Add to
I would like to add to what you said earlier by saying…
Insist on
John insisted on having his proposal included in the forecast.
Deal with
We can deal with this problem at a later stage.
Believe in
At FarmaCo Corporation we strongly believe in enhancing long term shareholder value.
Company tour
Thank sb for
I would like to thank Mary and Sue for joining us here today at the factory.
Telephone call
Complain about
Hi Bruce… Yes, it’s Jill here. I am calling to complain about a recent order we received. It appears some of the goods arrived damaged.
Press conference
Comment on
I am sorry, but I am unable to comment on this issue at the time.


Now that you can see the sentences in use you will be able to see that other grammatical structural elements become clear. Most obviously, verbs that follow these prepositions do so by taking the -ING form. If you would like to learn more about gerund after verbs and prepositions, then take a look at episode 15 of our podcast. You can find it here

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Final thoughts


Well, that brings me to the end of this episode, if you want to learn and improve your understanding of prepositions after verbs then here are a couple of study tips. Firstly, the best way to internalise structure and vocabulary in English is by reading regularly. Here at the AOBE we encourage all of our students to read regularly.

If you don’t have time to read, then you can try the following two techniques. Analyse the list from this podcast or head over to the AOBE website where all the content is listed. Review the list and see which verbs + dependent prepositions you already make mistakes with. Note down in a note book these verbs and start to consciously make the effort to correct yourself when you make the mistake. Secondly, note down 5 of your favourite expressions that you think you will use on a regular basis and start to incorporate them into your daily business English. Start by including them in your emails or presentations. Remember, these prepositions are fixed and dependent, meaning once you have learnt them, you will know them for life.

Well, that is all we have time for today. I hope that you have enjoyed today’s episode. Remember to share this content with your friends and family. Be sure to leave us a comment over at the AOBE website, or at our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/theaobe. Remember, we love to help so send us your questions and we will prepare some answers.

Till next week take care and happy learning.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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