Does this replacement change the meaning to something wrong?


I came with her or I came to her

I talk with you or I talk to you

  • 4
    This is a good question to ask on the English Language Learners site. Here is the link to ell.stackexchange.com.
    – tylerharms
    Feb 9 '13 at 15:07
  • 1
    Welcome to El&U. This question is answerable using a dictionary. If your question is not about the meanings of "with" and "to" please rewrite the question. Thanks.
    – MetaEd
    Feb 9 '13 at 15:28
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    I think good questions are good questions, wherever they happen to be posed. This question is definitely NOT answerable by consulting a dictionary. Or, if you have a magic dictionary, please supply the bibliographic details and the Amazon link. Feb 9 '13 at 15:39
  • @ShawnMooney If I could +50. Feb 9 '13 at 15:42

I came with her and I came to her mean two quite different things. The first means I accompanied her here, but the second means that I came here {to see / be with / meet [CHOOSE ONE]} her. Answer: No, "with" cannot be replaced by "to" in the first sentence, because it changes the meaning of the sentence.

The second example is a little more complicated because not everyone will agree that I talk with you and I talk to you mean the same thing. Some people say that "to talk with someone" is to have a conversation and that "to talk to someone" implies a one-way discussion: one person does all the speaking and the other does all the listening. This happens when someone criticizes you. Many native speakers of English make no such distinction, however. For some speakers, those two sentences mean the same thing.

To be on the safe side, I'd recommend not using "to" to replace "with" in the second sentence because it may change the meaning for some speakers.

In general, I'd say that you cannot use "to" to replace "with". I want to dance with you is fine, but it doesn't mean I want to dance to you; I want to eat dinner with you is fine, but it doesn't mean I want to eat dinner to you; I drink to you is fine, but it doesn't mean I drink with you; etc.

  • Can we say it depends on the verb? Is there any general rule to find after which verbs it's fine or not? Feb 9 '13 at 15:22
  • @Bill Franke, we composed our responses simultaneously, and as usual you have expressed yourself far more eloquently than I. You need to change "but it doesn't mean I want to dance with you" to "....to you" to have your last paragraph make sense. I tried to edit it but because the change was only a few characters long, I couldn't. Feb 9 '13 at 15:28
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    I don't think it depends on the verb. Sometimes prepositions have specific meanings and cannot be replaced; sometimes they can, eg, "I live by the library" & "I live near the library" are essentially synonymous, but * I drove with the library is ungrammatical and doesn't mean anything close to I drove to the library.
    – user21497
    Feb 9 '13 at 15:30
  • @Shawn Mooney: Thank you for the heads up! I made the edit. My answer is merely longer and has more examples. Maybe it's verbose. Yours is pithy: brief and to the point. +1 :-)
    – user21497
    Feb 9 '13 at 15:32
  • @BillFranke, thanks. Flattery will get you everywhere! Feb 9 '13 at 15:41

Yes, the meaning in quite different if you use to rather than with:

I came with her = We came together

I came to her = I approached her (more usual as I came up to her.)

The difference between I talk with you and I talk to you is more nuanced. (It is also important to note that your example sentences using talk are in the Simple Present, so they describe routine or regular activities.) Usually, when you talk with someone, you have a conversation, and both people participate; on the other hand, when you talk to someone, you tell them something, and they just listen. Because most conversations involve both people speaking, these two sentences can often mean the same thing, at least in casual spoken English. You can get around the distinction by using talk intransitively: We talked, or, in the Simple Present, We often talk, both of which show that both people participate(d) in the conversation.

I hope this helps.


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