Correct Preposition Use Enhances Professionalism

Using prepositions properly is a hallmark of professionalism in both speech and writing, but learning which preposition to use in which circumstance
requires memorization.
Certain words must be followed by certain prepositions in order to achieve clarity. Learning these combinations will help you conform to professional standards in business writing. The following list of common combinations clarifies which preposition to use when.
account for (to explain or justify something missing)
account to (to explain or justify something to someone)

• He needs to account for his absence at the client meeting.
• He will have to account to Mr. Peterson for missing the client meeting.
agree on or upon (arrive at an understanding)
agree to (go along with)
agree with (believe the same thing as someone else)

• Michael and Joe have agreed on changing the schedule.
• Michael and Joe agreed to Mr. Peterson’s ideas for changing the schedule.
• Michael and Joe agreed with Mr. Peterson’s ideas for changing the schedule.
angry at or about (irritated at or about something)
angry with (irritated with someone)

• Mario was angry at the finding of the courts.
• Mario was angry with Jules for an inadequate defense.
apply for (a job or other opportunity)
apply to (a person or an organization)

• Mario decided to apply for the position of chef.
• After serving three months of the six-month sentence, Mario decided to apply for the early release program.
• Mario applied to Ms. Myerson for help in winning the parole board’s approval.
• Mario applied to the new hotel for a job as chef.
compare to (make a general comparison)
compare with (evaluate specific similarities and differences)

• Harriet compared my performance to Frank’s.
• When Harriet compared my performance with Frank’s, she said I was better at ad libbing but not as smooth in my delivery.
convenient for (appropriate)
convenient to (nearby)

• Des Moines is convenient for all of us.
• Des Moines is convenient to Chicago.
differ about (something)
differ from (something else)
differ with (a person)
different from (distinct)
different than (compared to)

• We differed about research methodology, not personnel.
• My current research differs from Josie’s in significant ways.
• I differ with Josie over the methodology we plan to use.
• My research is different from Josie’s.
• I view it in a different way than Josie does.
knocked on (to rap or tap on some thing)
knocked out (to cause to lose consciousness; slang, informal, used in business writing: to be extremely impressed)

• Before entering, I knocked on the door.
• When I pushed open the door, it hit his head and he was knocked out.
• Slang: I was knocked out by Matthew’s terrific idea.
speak to (inform)
speak with (share ideas with)

• Mr. Peterson insists on speaking to them personally about the schedule.
• Mr. Peterson hopes you’ll speak with them about the schedule.
to (up to but not including x)
through (up to and including x)

• The leak spread to the chairman’s office.
• The leak spread through the chairman’s office.
Prepositions can be tricky. Use the above listing as a guide, so you’ll be certain to avoid common pitfalls.