I'm writing a sentence about a person who tries to convert a city to a faith, and differentiating that from a person who tries to convert an individual.

"while a (some specific terminology) is someone who proselytizes (to? at?) an entire city"

What preposition should go after proselytizes if any?

  • No need to differentiate in the verb. 'proselytize' works for any object, individual, plural, mass noun, etc. and no subcategorized prepositional phrase.
    – Mitch
    May 11, 2015 at 16:29
  • Interestingly, OED's first citation (from 1679) is As he was zealously proselytizing at Medina, news came that Abusophian Ben-Hareth was going into Syria. Arguably it's academic whether the preposition indicates location or target of the activity. According to NGrams, no preposition at all is more common, but I have no objection to either at or to, and I don't really think this is a matter of "grammatically" correct/incorrect. It's more of a stylistic choice. May 11, 2015 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


No preposition is used. You would say

proselytizes the entire city.


Proselytizes can also be used for any situation when people are trying to convince others to try something or to join something.

You can use this word as suggested below.

  1. She proselytizes in an easy and natural way for the importance of educating women, getting them out of the house and into jobs.

  2. As global challenges continue to pose a threat, Hugh represents a relatively new breed of entrepreneur—one who proselytizes the triple bottom line.


Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines proselytize as:

1.) to induce someone to convert to one's faith 2.) to recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause

It defines evangelize as:

1.) to try to convert (a group or area) to a different religion (especially Christianity) 2.) to preach the gospel to 3.) to convert to Christianity

As I interpret it, from these and other definitions not presented as redundant, evangelize denotes an attempt to effect a conversion of multiple individuals to Christianity, specifically through preaching the Gospel. Proselytize (again, my interpretation) means to use persuasion or influence to motivate single individuals to regard a certain belief or set of beliefs--which may or may not constitute a religious faith--as true and worthy of adopting.

In context:

We just visited every home in the city. That's the way the church in Jerusalem first evangelized that city. The disciples there evangelized the entire city of Jerusalem in a very short time. All the other churches in Asia Minor have followed that example.

--Gene Edwards, in an imaginary interview with 1st Century evangelist Aquila of Ephesus in How To Have A Soul Winning Church p. 28. Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Missouri. Pub. date unk.

Merriam-webster online, wordnik.com, dictionary.com, the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary and wiktionary.org all describe proselytize as an action directed at a single individual (or collective equivalent, i.e. "everyone"). I could find no definition wherein proselytize took a distinct assemblage or a plural number of discrete persons as its object, nor could I locate any contextual usage using that framework.

And now, for the actual answer to your question, I offer (with a caveat) the following construction:

"A proselyte wants to persuade the inhabitants of a city to convert to his faith; an evangelist has the faith to persuade an entire city it wants to convert"

The caveat: Understand that evangelize is appropriate only if referring to promulgating Christianity, and would be a poor choice in another context.

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