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They need TO control TO somebody. They need TO speak TO somebody.

How can I explain why the first one is not correct???

  • 2
    Try looking up an explanation of transitive and intransitive verbs. – Juhasz Mar 1 at 16:45
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"control" is a typical transitive verb, followed by the object: somebody controls something or somebody.

"speak to" (same as "listen to", "talk to", "write to", "reply to", "point to" and some others) is also transitive BUT prepositional, that is, it is always followed by the preposition "to": somebody speaks to somebody else.

Both are transitive, but notice that in the passive voice the prepositional verb will keep the preposition next to it.

  • The teacher controlled the student -> The student was controlled.
  • The teacher spoke to the student -> The student was spoken to.

The "to" phrase has some sense of direction in all of the sample verbs I mentioned.

In "Grammar and Vocabulary for Cambridge Advanced and Proficiency" by Richard Side and Guy Wellman (2011), we find this reference to "transitive prepositional verbs". Although there are no cases only with "to" (except for "talk down to"), the passive voice works exactly in the same way, with the preposition remaining next to the verb:

QUOTE

We often use some transitive prepositional verbs in the passive. When we do this, the preposition remains after the verb, with no object after it:

  • Colleen can usually be relied on to make a mess of things.

  • I assure you that the matter will be thoroughly looked into.

  • I think that sort of behaviour should be stamped on immediately.

  • I don’t like being talked down to like that.

UNQUOTE

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