‘Social’ Verbs and Prepositions

Reading audio

08 August, 2019

Talking, laughing, joking – these are some of the actions we do while we are with friends and family.

In today's report, we explore the grammar behind such actions. Specifically, we will show you how English speakers use verbs and prepositions to describe common actions in social situations.

"Social" verbs and prepositions

In earlier Everyday Grammar programs, we explored phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs have a verb and a particle, a kind of short word.

Phrasal verbs have an idiomatic meaning. In other words, the words together mean something different from what you might expect.

Today, we explore verbs and prepositions that appear next to each other in a sentence. Although they may look like phrasal verbs, they do not have an idiomatic meaning.

To do this, we will explore what we like to call "social" verb and preposition combinations. They describe how people express and react to ideas.

We will talk about two main groups: social verbs with "about" and social verbs with "to."

Talk about/laugh about/joke about

Our first group includes the verbs talk, laugh and joke. In everyday speech, speakers often use these verbs with the preposition "about."

Here is an example. Imagine a group of young people went out last weekend. One of them reports what took place:

1: What did you do last weekend?

2: Oh, we went to a café and talked about the drama in Ben's life.

1: Really? What kind of drama?

2: Well, Ben sent a bunch of money to some guy saying he was a Nigerian prince. I guess he had never heard of that famous internet scam...

1: That's crazy! I think Ben should read the news more often.

2: Yeah, but Ben didn't seem mad - he laughed about the whole situation. He even joked about it, too!

1: What a positive person!

Here, you heard how speakers might describe an event in the past.

You heard the speakers talk about a situation, laugh about a situation and joke about a situation.

Speakers might use these structures when talking about the future as well. In this example, the group N.E.R.D. has a song about a time in the future, when the singer will be able to look back at an event and laugh about it.

Someday I'll laugh about it
All that preciousness we had it
Couldn't it last like that I doubt it
Come on girl lets laugh about it

Talk to/Listen to

Our next group of "social" verb and preposition combinations includes "talk to" and "listen to."

"Talk" and "listen" are verbs; "to" is a preposition.

You can talk to someone and you can listen to someone.

For example:

I enjoy talking to my friends and family.

She said I was not listening to her.

You can also talk to something and listen to something, as in:

Is Joe talking to that tree?

Are you listening to that song again?

Popular music gives you many examples of talk to and listen to.

Let's listen to an example. The famous American singer Frank Sinatra sang the following words:

Talk to me, talk to me, talk to me
Your magical kiss can take me just so far


Rock group Evanescence gives you an example of how you "listen to" something.

Listen to each drop of rain (listen, listen)
Whispering secrets in vain (listen, listen)


Closing thoughts

Now that you have heard examples and explanations of common "social" verb and preposition combinations, try to practice using them yourself.

Be sure to look for examples of them when you watch American television shows or listen to music.

In future Everyday Grammar stories, we will talk about more fun grammar topics...

And that's Everyday Grammar.

I'm John Russell.

And I'm Jill Robbins.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

drama – n. a situation or series of events that is exciting and that affects people's emotions

scam – n. a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people

positive – adj. hopeful or optimistic

preciousness – n. very valuable or important

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