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Sometimes I'm unsure about which prepositions can be used with a verb or adjective and how they change the meaning.

Are there any resources to help me with this?

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  • Wasn't there a similar question posted on meta not long ago? – Cascabel Feb 22 at 18:59
  • @Cascabel: no idea. Haven't found it before posting. – peoro Feb 22 at 19:08
  • OK...resource requests are in the domain of meta. I will VTC to migrate there. BTW...we often call these collocations. – Cascabel Feb 22 at 19:11
  • First, learn the difference between prepositions that are required by the verb, like look at (the painting) or listen to (the song), on the one hand, and phrasal verbs like look up (the word) or pass out (the exams), on the other. They behave very differently, and just asking about "prepositions" will give you confusing answers. – John Lawler Feb 22 at 19:46
  • @JohnLawler: I don't have a problem with common phrasal verbs. Sometimes I get confused with what prepositions to use with less common verbs. For instance, why "this device is calibrated X my specifications" takes "to", instead of "on", "around" or others? – peoro Feb 22 at 20:11
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    Prepositions are rough in English, varying greatly by context. You could study 500 flash cards and still stumble. English speakers know that and forgive mistakes. Read a lot of books in a favorite subject. – Yosef Baskin Feb 22 at 23:35
  • @YosefBaskin: I know what prepositions to use 99% of the time. But at times I'm trying to phrase something using words I'm a bit less familiar with and I stumble on the preposition. (e.g. stumble ON? TO? WITH? AGAINST? AROUND? OVER? isn't it kind of arbitrary?). What I'm looking for is something where I can look up a specific word and see which prepositions can be used with that word and how the meaning changes... I would need this tool even just to create the flashcards. – peoro Feb 23 at 8:25
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    A good dictionary is very helpful, ideally multiple dictionaries. Here Lexico and Merriam-Webster both have various examples. You just have to find what seems the closest. There is a lot of variation in many cases, including variation between dictionaries, so you just have to try your best. lexico.com/definition/stumble merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stumble – Stuart F Feb 23 at 12:13
  • @StuartF: yes, a good dictionary could work, but none of the ones I tried so far is enough. Neither lexico nor merriam-webster suggest that "on" is an appropriate preposition for stumbling (the second uses "onto" in an example for a secondary meaning of the verb). Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are of no help either... – peoro Feb 23 at 13:26
  • If I search on google something like "stumble on vs stumble", I find a number of questions from people who try to figure out what's the correct preposition for that verb. But I'm surprised that's the only way to find an answer... – peoro Feb 23 at 13:27
  • (And my previous comment contains yet another example: why "search ON google" instead of IN, WITH, or no preposition? I know that ON is correct from experience, but if I didn't I don't think I'd be able to guess correctly and wouldn't know how to find it out. Dictionaries once again are of no help.) – peoro Feb 23 at 13:36
  • On and in is usually metaphoric, so you hafta decide whether Google is a container of information (use in) or a big flat screen that you read off (use on). That question has an answer, but it doesn't depend on (or extend to, depending on your metaphor) verbs. You can get learner's dictionaries and verb dictionaries that actually tell you these things, or look in the OED, but don't expect any useful information in dictionaries published in the US. They are published for Americans, who are expected not to know anything about the English language, and they are generally correct. – John Lawler Feb 23 at 15:34

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