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Why is it grammatically incorrect to say

We would like to discuss about the matters at hands first.

But it is alright to say

I will think about what you have said this morning.

What I've heard that the word discuss is treated like consider and investigate. It makes sense that about cannot be placed with consider, e.g. it sounds weird to say "I'll consider about this relationship."

So what are the words that will have the same effects with discuss, consider and investigate? What makes look and think so special that about is grammatically correct to be used together with them?

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4 Answers 4

Where did you read that it is incorrect to use about with discuss? I think discuss + about + something is correct. But when it is noun i.e. discussion then you use on. discussion + on + something.

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1  
Do you have any evidence for discuss about? –  Barrie England Oct 12 '12 at 9:51
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BNC has exactly 4 hits for "discuss about", vs. 5426 cites for simply "discuss". COCA has 11 vs. 21359. I think the situation is clear. –  RegDwigнt Oct 12 '12 at 9:57

There's nothing conceptually "special" about discuss, consider, investigate; that's just how the words are used.

Discuss is always transitive: it requires a direct object. (However, if you hold a discussion it may be about some topic.)

Consider and investigate are usually transitive and take a direct object: you consider or investigate a topic. They may be used intransitively: "John paused to consider", or "John is going to investigate", but a direct object is always implied. (If he conducts an investigation it will ordinarily be of or into a topic. One does not however hold or conduct or anything-else a consideration— that has quite a different meaning.

Think may be either transitive ("Think deep thoughts") or intransitive ("John thought deeply"). If intransitive, it usually employs about with its topic.

There's neither a mystery nor a general principle here, just a bunch of atomic facts you have to memorize.

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Google Ngrams shows a sharp rise in that phrase since 1940. It's common in Japanese-English and Chinese-English. Educated native speakers of English rarely if ever use it because they think it's incorrect usage. We talk about something, but we discuss something (without the about).

  • A discussion about something is perfectly correct.

  • "Let's talk turkey" is different from "Let's talk about turkey".

  • "Let's discuss the matters at hand first" is natural and idiomatic English.

  • "Let's discuss about the matters at hand first" is unnatural English.

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The grammatical explanation is that verbs like think and look are intransitive. That means they cannot normally be followed by a direct object, but can only be complemented by a prepositional phrase which in the case of think usually begins with about (or of) and in the case of look usually begins with at. (An alternative interpretation sees think about and look at as prepositional verbs which are transitive and which can be followed by a direct object.)

Discuss, by contrast, is a transitive verb which must normally be followed by a direct object. This is supported by the figures quoted by RegDwight in his comment on GuiccoPiano's answer, and the Oxford English Dictionary has no citations at all for discuss about.

This, I’m afraid, doesn’t answer the question of why this should be so. That would require an investigation into the history of each word, which is not possible here.

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