Improper prepositions

Improper prepositionsrunning-dog

Each sentence contains an error.

Demand” means “to ask for something forcefully” while

 “request” means “to ask for something politely or formally”


If someone has done you wrong, you demand for an apology.

She requested for three days’ leave because her mother was critically ill.


 Many Malaysians’ use of incorrect verb + preposition structures like “discuss about”, “stress on” and “emphasise on”. The verbs should all be without the prepositions after them.

Here are some examples of sentences with the verbs correctly used:

1. They discuss politics all day long.

2. The speaker stressed/emphasised the health benefits of regular physical exercise.


However, when the noun equivalents of the verbs are used, the prepositions often come after them, though not always immediately after them.

The noun forms of discuss, stress and emphasise are discussion, stress and emphasis respectively.

The following are examples of correct sentences using the nouns followed by the prepositions:

1. There will be a discussion about the coming elections today.

2. The emphasis/stress in this course is on developing students’ thinking skills.


Two other verbs that should not have prepositions after them are “await [for] and “mention [about]” (the redundant prepositions are in square brackets).


“Await” means to wait for (somebody or something), while

“mention” means to write or speak about something/somebody

Thus we say:

“We eagerly await your arrival.”

And we may sometimes ask:

“Did she mention my name?” 

 “Mention” can also be used as a noun, but the preposition usually used after it is “of”, not “about”,

as in:

“The mention of his hometown brought back memories to the singer.” There is however no noun equivalent of “await”.


The verb “comprise” presents an interesting case. It means “consist of”. When the verb is used in its active form, it is not followed by “of”.

For example, we say:

“Malaysia comprises fourteen states.”

But its passive form, “be comprised”, is followed by “for”,

and we can use this passive form to say

“Malaysia is comprised of fourteen states”

which has the same meaning as the active sentence.


“Please list down the names of students who want to order the dictionary.”

“To list” means to write a list of and there is no such phrase as “list down” or for that matter, “list out” which some Malaysians use. I suspect that “list down” may have come into being through a false analogy with “write down”.


 “Are you coping up with your work?”

If so, the person is using the wrong expression. “Cope” means to deal successfully with something difficult (OALD) and can either be used by itself, or with the preposition “with”.

So, the question should go:

“Are you coping with your work?”

And your answer could be:

“Thanks, I am coping all right.”


Malaysians so often use when they want to buy some food from a cafe or restaurant, and take it home to eat.

The expression is “buy back” as in:

 Wrong: “Shall we buy back some food?”

Correct: “Shall we buy some food to take home?”

This really implies that the person and his companion(s) have earlier sold some food to the cafe or restaurant and he is suggesting that they buy it back.

This is the sense in which it is used in the following news report:

“Sir Richard Branson is attempting to buy back the former Virgin Radio 14 years after selling the UK radio group” 


Happy Learning

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