English Grammar Review
Prepositions and Conjunctions

Preposition Usage

People who grow up speaking English learn by repetition that certain prepositions "go with" certain verbs in ways that have unique meanings. For example:

compare with X = analyze X to identify similarities or differences

Let's compare the business environment of Abuja with the business environment of Lagos.

compare to X = suggest a similarity to X

My writing style is often compared to that of Chinua Achebe.

A good dictionary can help you properly use these verb-preposition combinations. They often have subtle distinctions, even when they are worded the same way. Let's work our way through some frequently used combinations.

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agree on X = reach an understanding about X

They agree on the budget, and we agree on meeting next week.

agree to X = accept X, such as someone else's plan

They agree to establish a budget, and we agree to meet next week.

agree with X = concur with X, such as a person or idea

They agree with budgetary rules, and we agree with your suggestion to meet next week.

Maybe have fun with a memory aid:

I agree with you,
   so now I'm on the hook.
If you agree on dinner,
   I'll agree to cook.

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correspond to X = be related or similar to X

This number will correspond to a number on the invoice.

correspond with X = be in alignment or agreement with X

The buttons should be spaced to correspond with the button holes.

correspond with X = exchange messages with X, a person

I correspond with them using email.

* * *

differ : to be different

We may look alike, but we differ in temperament.

My views differ from yours, but we can get along.

Opinions about social media differ between children and parents.

differ : to disagree

Economists differ on the need to raise rates.

I beg to differ with you on that issue.

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rewarded by X (desired outcome)

Any company that controls cost will be rewarded by a higher return on investment.

rewarded for X (behavior)

They were rewarded for their hard work with a bonus.

rewarded with X (gift)

The fastest runner was rewarded with the gold medal.

* * *

retroactive : looking back in time to a date in the past, creating a timespan during which a law or agreement will be considered to have had effect even though it was just approved now

Therefore, we have: retroactive to X (date)

Pay raises will be retroactive to May 1.

* * *

speak to X (people) = talk with someone; connotation: one-way conversation

I hope to speak to them before the meeting.

speak to X (topic) = verbally address a topic

In the meeting, could you speak to the need for better training?

speaks to X (topic) = informs us about a topic

That missed opportunity speaks to the need for better training.

speak with X (person) = talk with someone; connotation: two-way conversation

I hope to speak with them so we can reach a consensus.

speak with X (trait) = talk a certain way

He is not really an expert, but he speaks with authority.

speak with X (person) = talk with someone; connotation: one-way criticism

He made that same mistake again? Okay, I'll speak with him privately and let him know that this is a serious problem for the company.

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If it helps, you can create your own aural drills to get used to hearing the sounds of these verb-preposition phrases. For example, read these two sentences out loud, twice:

I'm afraid of A, aware of B, capable of C, certain of D, and independent of E.

You're inferior to J, opposed to K, related to L, similar to M, and superior to N.

Lesson: Preposition Usage
Module: Prepositions and Conjunctions
Course: English Grammar Review