Which preposition is suitable to follow skeptical?

  • 2
    There are many: He is remains skeptical about ... He is skeptical of ... He describes himself as skeptical in several of his films. He only said he was skeptical under duress... Without refinement I don't think this question can have a meaningful answer.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 3:18
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/54901/…
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:52
  • I always argued that the preposition depends strongly on what follows it, even more than what precedes.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:52
  • @Jim The first part is right. The examples, though, do not fit.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:56
  • @Kris- I purposely chose those examples because OP did not constrain his question. Are they prepositions and do they follow skeptical? I agree that they do not all conform to the same model.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 5:02

2 Answers 2


COCA finds these frequencies for prepositions that immediately follow skeptical:

Count Preposition
1099 of
804 about
21 as
15 on
14 in
11 at
9 with
8 from
6 to
6 because
5 after
4 by
3 among
3 for
3 toward
2 without
2 towards
1 up
1 until
1 like
1 throughout
1 through
1 regarding
1 over
1 during
1 despite
1 across
2025 Total

So almost always the right answer is either of skeptical of or skeptical about, but other possibilities may exist depending on the broader context and personal predilections. Most of the others are false hits, and not actually part of the skeptical PREP THING bit at all.

I say “personal predilections” because I cannot see myself ever being skeptical at something, but apparently some people on occasion are so. One of those citations is this one, from a piece of short fiction named “School Days” by Russell Banks in 1995:

I told him how I’d agreed to send Rose back to her mom in the morning and he looked a little skeptical at that with one eyebrow cocked and his lips pressed together and didn’t say anything one way or the other.

  • Why were the other prepositions used at all? Because they were needed in view of what follows the preposition, the context, the semantics, more than what precedes? All the above cases must be grammatical and make adequate sense. Of may be statistically predominant but eminently unsuitable in a given context.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:54
  • @Kris I already answered your question when I explained that those others were almost always false hits that do not describe being skeptical PREP something. Since I already answered your question, that means you’re just quibbling, and I look forward with great relish to reading your own studied answer to the OP.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 5:01
  • english.stackexchange.com/questions/54901/…
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 5:02

You pose two different uses of the word and thought. In the one case a speaker is skeptical "of" a "truth" and in the later he is "posing" (in) skepticism as a position.

One who is skeptical of a "truth" is in fact doubtful of its authenticity.

One who poses as a skeptic writes regarding his belief in the inaccuracy of the given "truth."

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