Prepositions with Adjectives

Definition

Prepositions can sometimes appear after adjectives to complete or elaborate on the ideas or emotions the adjective describes. Prepositions used in this way are known as adjective complements. The preposition always comes directly after the adjective and is typically followed by a noun or gerund to form a prepositional phrase.
The most common prepositions used alongside adjectives include the following:
  • of
  • to
  • about
  • for
  • with
  • at
  • by
  • in
  • from

Rules

There are no definite rules when it comes to combining adjectives with prepositions, but a few patterns exist. One trick is to look at how synonymous adjectives and antonymous adjectives pair with prepositions; another is to memorize the prepositions used with adjectives’ associated noun forms.

Synonymous adjectives

Synonymous adjectives generally take the same prepositions. For example, when the adjective afraid is replaced with its synonyms scared and terrified, the preposition of stays the same:
  • “Megan was afraid of the thunderstorm.” (original)
  • “Megan was scared of the thunderstorm.”
  • “Megan was terrified of the thunderstorm.”
Be careful, though, as some similar-sounding adjectives may require different prepositions:
  • “Philip is upset about what was said.” (original)
  • “Philip is displeased with what was said.”
  • “Philip is hurt by what was said.”

Antonymous adjectives

Like synonymous adjectives, the majority of antonymous adjectives use the same prepositions:
  • “It was smart of him to go on vacation.”
  • “It was stupid of him to go on vacation.”
  • “She’s good at skateboarding.”
  • “She’s bad at skateboarding.”

Noun forms with prepositions

We can also examine the prepositions used with associated nouns, as the same prepositions are often used with the adjective forms as well. For example:
  • “I am interested in astronomy.” (adjective)
  • “I have an interest in astronomy.” (associated noun)
  • “He is addicted to playing tennis.” (adjective)
  • “He has an addiction to playing tennis.” (associated noun)
  • “Julie is obsessed with that movie.” (adjective)
  • “Julie has an obsession with that movie.” (associated noun)
On occasion, an adjective and its associated noun form may not share the same preposition, as in the example below:
  • “He is fond of animals.” (adjective)
  • “He has a fondness for animals.” (associated noun)

Examples of common pairings

Because there are no distinct rules for determining how adjectives combine with prepositions, the best way to learn correct adjective + preposition combinations is by memorizing some of the most common pairings.
Below are various examples of combinations you may come across in everyday English.

Adjective + of

An adjective paired with the preposition of can identify causes of mental and physical states (e.g., fear, exhaustion, anxiety, etc.) or offer descriptions for actions and people. For example:
Adjective + of
Example Sentences
afraid of, frightened of, scared of, terrified of
“Sam is afraid of dogs.”
“Many kids are frightened of clowns.”
“Are you scared of airplanes?”
“The poor baby was terrified of her crib.”
kind of, nice of, sweet of, thoughtful of
“How kind of you to come early.”
“That was nice of your sister to treat us to dessert.”
“It’s very sweet of John to send a gift.”
“It is thoughtful of passengers to thank their drivers.”
odd of, strange of
“How odd of that man to wear sunglasses inside.”
“It’s strange of you to change your mind like that.”
proud of
“Mom told me she is proud of my accomplishments.”
rude of
“I thought it rude of her to interrupt me.”
smart of
“That’s very smart of you.”
sick of, tired of
“I am so sick of doing laundry every week.”
“Olivia confessed that she is tired of dating Mike.”
silly of
“It was silly of me to assume I was right.”
stupid of
“How stupid of that boy to drop out of high school.”

Adjective + to

When paired with an adjective, the preposition to can describe behaviors, states, or connections between things and people. For example:
Adjective + to
Example Sentences
accustomed to
“He quickly became accustomed to city life.”
addicted to
“I think I'm addicted to action movies.”
committed to, dedicated to, devoted to
“She is committed to the art of dance.”
“How dedicated to your studies are you?”
“Lucy is devoted to her family.”
friendly to, good to, kind to, nice to
“Henry is friendly to everyone.”
“Was she good to you?”
“You should always be kind to others.”
“Mrs. Roberts was nice to the cashier.”
married to
“Cassie is married to Nick.”
mean to, rude to, unfriendly to
“Don’t be mean to your classmates.”
“The couple was rude to the waitress.”
“A lot of cats are unfriendly to humans.”
opposed to
“I am opposed to these changes.”
similar to
“His idea is similar to mine.”

Adjective + about

The preposition about typically accompanies emotive adjectives in regards to specific situations or events. For example:
Adjective + about
Example Sentences
angry about, furious about, mad about
“My neighbor is angry about the loud music we played last night.”
“That woman is furious about having to wait in line.”
“You’re always mad about something.”
anxious about, nervous about, stressed about, worried about
“Joe is anxious about studying abroad next semester.”
“She seemed nervous about the test.”
“Rachel is stressed about finding a job.”
“Dad is worried about filing taxes.”
excited about
“I am excited about a new book that’s coming out soon.”
happy about
“Aren’t you happy about the way things turned out?”
sad about, depressed about
“She might be sad about her grades.”
“Bobby was depressed about his parents’ divorce.”
sorry about
“I’m sorry about yesterday.”
upset about
“He’s probably upset about losing the soccer match.”

Adjective + for

For can be used with adjectives to demonstrate purpose or reason. For example:
  • “Texas is famous for rodeos.”
  • “Australia is known for its large kangaroo population.”
  • “Coach Brown is responsible for the football team.”
For may also be used to emphasize someone’s feelings toward a specific event, thing, or person. This combination follows the basic form feel/be + adjective + for + someone/something. For example:
  • “Marianne feels bad for her coworker.”
  • “Kyle is happy for his brother.”
  • “The company felt hopeful for the future.”

Adjective + with

When used with an adjective, the preposition with can indicate the cause of an emotional state or a connection between things or people. For example:
Adjective + with
Example Sentences
angry with, furious with
“Nicole is angry with her mother.”
“I heard he’s furious with you!”
annoyed with, fed up with
“I’m annoyed with this traffic.”
“She’s fed up with having to clean toilets all day.”
bored with
“It’s hard not to be bored with long lectures.”
content with, fine with, OK with
“Taylor was content with moving to Chicago.”
“I’m fine with having to rewrite the introduction.”
“Are you sure you’re OK with this?”
disappointed with, displeased with
“Molly seems disappointed with her performance.”
“The boy’s parents are displeased with his behavior.”
pleased with
“We are very pleased with the number of donations we received.”
With may also be employed in passive sentences to describe the states of people or things:
  • “Paris is especially crowded with tourists in the summertime.”
  • “The cake is filled with fresh blueberries.”
  • “The piñata is stuffed with hundreds of pieces of candy.”

Adjective + at/by

Most adjectives that take the preposition at can also take the preposition by. When combined with adjectives, these prepositions illustrate causes for specific reactions or emotional responses. By can be used in place of at only because these sentences require passive voice. For example:
  • “The man was amazed at/by the number of people offering to help him.”
  • “She was astonished at/by the movie’s poor ratings.”
  • “I’m shocked at/by his behavior.”
  • “Flight attendants were surprised at/by the plane’s abrupt landing.”
At can also describe skills and abilities when paired with positive and negative adjectives, such as good/bad and wonderful/terrible. In this case, by cannot be used in place of at, as the sentences are not passive. For example:

Adjective + in

Some adjectives can be paired with the preposition in to show connections or relationships between people and things. For example:
  • “Bernard is interested in joining the school band.”
  • “Is she involved in politics?”

Adjective + from

Adjectives taking the preposition from can emphasize a point of opposition or the result of an action. For example:
  • “Turquoise is different from blue.” (point of opposition)
  • “We were protected from the storm.” (point of opposition)
  • “I became tired from studying all night.” (result of an action)

Adjectives with multiple prepositions

Many adjectives can be paired with multiple prepositions. While some prepositions may change the meaning of a sentence, others can behave interchangeably (such as at and by). Here are some sentence pairs that use different prepositions but have identical meanings:
  • “She’s very sorry about the mistake.”
  • “She’s very sorry for the mistake.”
  • “Mark is disappointed with the decision.”
  • “Mark is disappointed in the decision.”
In some cases, however, the prepositions are not interchangeable and can only be used to describe specific nouns or gerunds. For example, when paired with adjectives, with and for generally refer to people, whereas about usually refers to things, events, or gerunds:
  • “I’m so happy for them.” (people)
  • “I’m so happy about the wedding.” (thing/event)
  • “Dad is angry with Elizabeth.” (person)
  • “Dad is angry about Elizabeth’s sneaking out.” (gerund)
Quiz

1. Which of the following prepositions is most commonly paired with adjectives?





2. Which of the following sentences contains a preposition paired with an adjective?





3. Which of the following sentences does not contain a preposition paired with an adjective?





4. Which of the following sentences is correct?





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