Common mistakes in IELTS – Using the wrong preposition (Part 1)

Misused forms

     Using the wrong preposition

Mistakes are often made by using the wrong preposition after certain words. The following list includes the words which most often give trouble:

1. Absorbed (= very much interested) in, not at

Don’t say: The man was absorbed at his work.

✓ Say: The man was absorbed in his work.

2. Accuse of, not for

Don’t say: She accused the man for stealing.

✓  Say: She accused the man of stealing.

Note: Charge takes with –> The man was charged with murder.

3. Accustomed to, not with

Don’t say: I’m accustomed with hot weather.

✓  Say: I’m accustomed to hot weather.

Note: Also used to –> He is used to the heat.

4. Afraid of, not from

Don’t say: Laura is afraid from the dog.

✓ Say: Laura is afraid of the dog.

5. Aim at, not on or against

Don’t say: She aimed on (or against) the target.

✓ Say: She aimed at the target.

Note: Use the preposition at to denote direction –> throw at, shoot at, fire at, shoot at. Shoot (without the at) means to kill –> He shot a bird (= he hit and killed it)

6. Angry with, not against

Don’t say: The teacher was angry against him.

✓ Say: The teacher was angry with him.

Note 1:  We get angry with a person but at a thing –> He was angry at the weather foot with the weather.

Note 2: Also annoyed with, vexed with, indignant with a person, but at a thing.

7. Anxious (= troubled) about, not for

Don’t say: They’re anxious for his health.

✓ Say:They’re anxious about his health.

Note: Anxious meaning wishing very much takes for –> Parents are anxious for their children’s success.

8. Arrive at, not to

Don’t say: We arrived to the village at night.

✓ Say: We arrived at the village at night.

Note: Use arrive in with countries and large cities. Mr Smith has arrived in London (or New York, India, etc)

9. Ashamed of, not from

Don’t say: He’s now ashamed from his conduct.

✓ Say: He’s now ashamed of his conduct.

Note: It isn’t correct to use ashamed of meaning shy. Ashamed means feeling shame or guilt about something. Shy means feeling nervous with someone. Instead of saying –> I’m ashamed (or shamed) of my teacher, say I’m shy of my teacher.

10. Believe in, not to

Don’t say: We believe to God.

✓ Say: We believe in God.

Note: To believe in means to have faith in. To believe (without the in) means to regard something as true / believe everything he says

11. Boast of or about, not for

Don’t say: James boasted for his strength.

✓ Say: James boasted of (or about) his strength.

12. Careful of, with or about, not for

Don’t say: Hike’s very careful for her health.

✓ Say: Elke’s very careful of/about her health.

Or: You should be more careful with your money.

Note: Take care of –> He takes care of his money.

13. Travel by train, etc., not with the train, etc.

Don’t say: He travelled with the train yesterday.

Say: He travelled by train yesterday.

Note: We say by train, by boat, by plan, 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.

14. Complain about, not for

Don’t say: Annette complained for the weather.

✓ Say: Annette complained about the weather.

Note: When talking about illness we use complain of. We say –> She complained of a sore throat.

15. Composed of, not from

Don’t say: Our class is composed from thirty students.

✓ Say: Our class is composed of thirty students.

16. Confidence in, not to

Don’t say: I have great confidence to you.

✓ Say: I have great confidence in you.

Note: In confidence –> Let me tell you something in confidence (= as a secret)

17. Conform to, not with

Don’t say: We must conform with the rules.

✓ Say: We must conform to the rules.

Note: comply takes with –> We’ll comply with your request.

18. Congratulate on, not for

Don’t say: I congratulate you for your success.

✓ Say: I congratulate you on your success.

19. Consist of, not from

Don’t say: A year consists from twelve months.

✓ Say: A year consists of twelve months.

Note: Take great cate never to use consist in the passive form

20. Covered with, not by

Don’t say:The mountains are covered by snow.

✓ Say: The mountains are covered with/in snow.

21. Cure of, not from

Don’t say:The man was cured from his illness.

✓ Say: The man was cured of his illness.

Note: The noun cure takes for –> There’s no cure for that disease.

22. Depend on or upon, not from

Don’t say: It depends from her.

✓ Say: It depends on (or upon) her.

Note: Rely on or upon –> I can’t rely on for upon him.

23. Deprive of, not from

Don’t say: Nelson Mandela was deprived from his freedom.

✓ Say: Nelson Mandela was deprived of his freedom.

24. Die of an illness, not from an illness

Don’t say: Many people have died from malaria.

✓ Say: Many people have died of malaria.

Note: 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.

25. Different from, not than

Don’t say: My book is different than yours.

✓ Say: My book is different from yours.

26. Disappointed by, about or at, not from

(a) by/at/about

Don’t say: Phillipa was disappointed from the low mark she got in the test.

✓ Say: Phillipa was disappointed by/about/at the low mark she got in the test.

(b) with/in

Don’t say: Jane was disappointed from her son.

✓ Say: Jane was disappointed with/in her son.

Note: Before a person we use with or in, before a thing we use at, about or by and before a gerund we use at; Keith is very disappointed at not winning the prize. We use that (optional before a new clause) –> I was disappointed that I didn’t get an invitation.

27. Divide into parts, not in parts

Don’t say: I divided the cake in four parts.

✓ Say: I divided the cake into four parts.

Note: A thing may be divided in half or in two –> Paul divided the apple in half (or in two).

28. No doubt (n) of or about, not for

Don’t say: I’ve no doubt for his ability.

✓ Say: I’ve no doubt of (or about) his ability.

Note: Doubtful of –> I am doubtful of his ability to pass.

29. Dressed in, not with

Don’t say: The woman was dressed with black.

✓ Say: The woman was dressed in black.

Note: “The woman was in black.” is also correct

30. Exception to, not of

Don’t say:This is an exception of the rule.

✓ Say: This is an exception to the rule.

Note: We say with the exception of –> She lined all her subjects with the exception of physics.

31. Exchange for, not by

Don’t say: He exchanged his collection of matchboxes by some foreign stamps.

✓ Say: He exchanged his collection of matchboxes for some foreign stamps.

Note: In exchange for He gone them his old car in exchange for o new one.

32. Fail in, not from

Don’t say: Steven failed from maths last year.

✓ Say: Steven failed in maths last year.

33. Full of, not with or from

Don’t say: The jar was full with (or from) oil.

✓ Say: The jar was full of oil.

Note: Fill takes with –> Jane filled the glass with water.

34. Get rid of, not from

Don’t say: I’ll be glad to get rid from him.

✓ Say: I’ll be glad to get rid of him.

35. Glad about, not from or with

Don’t say: Francis was glad from (or with) receiving your letter.

✓ Say: Francis was glad about receiving your letter.

36. Good at, not in

Don’t say: My sister’s good in Maths.

✓ Say: My sister’s good at Maths.

Note 1: Bad at, clever at, quick at, slow at, etc. However, weak in –> He’s weak in grammar.

Note 2: “He’s good in class.” means that his conduct is good

37. Guard against, not from

Don’t say: You must guard from bad habits.

✓ Say: You must guard against bad habits.

38. Guilty of, not for

Don’t say: He was found guilty for murder.

✓ Say: He was found guilty of murder

39. Independent of, not from

Don’t say: Clare’s independent from her parents.

✓ Say: Clare’s independent of her parents.

Note: We say dependent on –> A child is dependent on its parents.

40. Indifferent to, not for

Don’t say: They’re indifferent for politics.

Say: They’re indifferent to politics.

Click here to read Common mistakes in IELTS – Misused forms (Part 2)

Common mistakes in IELTS – Using the wrong preposition (Part 1)
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