I am totally new here and I am sorry if I set the title wrong. Back to my issue, I am applying jobs and I was asked:

Confidentiality is crucial in this job. Can you describe your knowledge of handling confidential information such as maintaining electronic files and accessing records on a database. What consideration do you make in leaving your desk or handing this information over to other members of staff?

The question above makes me really confused. But I guess they want me to let them know what would I do when I leave my desk or pass confidential information to my colleagues. If I'm right, would you please help me to explain what the grammar role of the word "in" here (the bold one above)? I thought it should be "when" instead? Thank you.

  • You could replace in there by, for example, in respect of or in the matter of. Or just when, but maybe that's not such a good example because the "syntactic role" is essentially that of preposition (it establishes a relationship between any hypothetical "considerations" you might make, and the two specified activities). I suppose you might say that functionally the role is more that of a conjunction, but I'm not sure how this might enlighten you. There's nothing "wrong" with in though (and imho on would be equally acceptable there). Nov 16, 2016 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


It is possible that you are parsing the sentence as

What consideration do you make in leaving your desk?

This would be understandable because English often attaches prepositions to verbs to give idiomatic meanings, which cannot be discerned by considering the meanings of the verb and the preposition separately. The combination is a unit, which some call a phrasal verb. For instance, take make out, which has several different uses, one of which is to reach some result. Here's an example of the usage:

It's not clear how Johnson made out investing in real estate in the Sunshine State....

In other words, we're not sure of the result that Mr. Johnson achieved by putting his money in land investments in Florida, the so-called Sunshine State. Maybe he got rich; maybe he went broke. Notice that you can't figure out the meaning by putting together the definitions for made (fashioned) and out (outside).

Note also that this appears to have the same sequence as your example:

Form-of-to make + Preposition + Present-Participle

But make in is not a phrasal verb. The correct association is

What consideration do you make in leaving your desk?

The preposition is not part of the verb, but rather introduces the prepositional phrase with object leaving your desk.

Consideration here means careful thought, and it licenses a prepositional phrase with in or about to indicate the topic of that thought. Since the preposition is not closely associated with the verb, we may move the prepositional phrase to get the equivalent (though less elegant) sentence

What consideration in leaving your desk do you make?

Alas, there is no rule for figuring out which combinations make phrasal verbs.

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