In some languages there are particular verbs that can be used both with and without a preposition. In some of these cases, the verb also accepts multiple prepositions.

Example 1: Below is an example in Turkish using the verb "vurdu". This verb can accept a preposition but also function without it (although with a difference in meaning).

  • Çılgın adam beni vurdu. (The crazy man shot me.)
  • Çılgın adam bana vurdu. (The crazy man hit me.)

The word "beni", used in the first sentence, is in the accusative case (object pronoun). The word "bana", used in the second sentence, can be translated as "to me". So the difference between the two sentences is that the latter has the preposition "to", which changes the meaning of the verb.

Example 2: Here is another example in Turkish using the verb "kalsın". This verb can accept (at least) two prepositions.

  • Diğerleri ona kalsın. (Let him have the rest (of something).)
  • Diğerleri onla kalsın. (Leave the rest (of something) with him.)

"ona" can be translated as "to him", where as "onla" can be translated as "with him". The first sentence can imply that you shouldn't cheat him by taking his share of whatever is being discussed. The second sentence can imply that you should leave/give whatever is being discussed to the person so that he can keep/safeguard it.

I've been thinking about this for a while now, and the closest example I can think of, in English, is the usage of "home" vs "to my house". Although the phrase "We're going home" is just as valid as "We're going to my house", the meaning of the verb does not change.

So, does such a grammatical pattern exist in English, where the verb changes in meaning based on the presence or type of preposition used?

  • Are you asking about multi-word verbs? i.e. a verb + preposition combination with an idiomatic meaning? – Cascabel Mar 27 at 19:57
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    This is common in English. I'm looking for him, I'm looking to him, I'm looking at him, is one example of many. Phrasal verbs are another: I dressed him up and I dressed him down mean completely different things. – Peter Shor Mar 27 at 20:31

Many phrasal verbs have this great change in meaning based on the preposition. For example, the verb 'put':

  • to put on - to wear
  • to put off - to delay
  • to put up - to house
  • to put down - to insult
  • to put out - to disadvantage, to offer sex
  • to put upon - to impose

Here's a list of many such phrasal verbs showing how just changing the preposition doesn't just change the literal physical direction of the preposition) it changes the whole meaning.

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    There are dictionaries of phrasal verbs. You'll need one, since there are many times more phrasal verbs (of both types) than regular verbs without particles. Most English verbs have at least one phrasal verb, and usually more, up to 10 quite often. – John Lawler Mar 27 at 21:06
  • Thank you for the links and the examples. I never noticed how common this is. The examples you provided make it clear that prepositions with opposite meanings (e.g. on/off, up/down) are good examples for use in demonstration of this topic. – Dave Mar 27 at 23:57

One example is hit.

The man hit me.

The man hit on me.

These have different meanings. The first is obvious, but the second means that he wanted something, such as a favour, money or sex.

The references are from Lexico.

  • Good example.. can be used to easily convey this topic. Thanks – Dave Mar 28 at 0:00

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