This was one of our questions in our practice book:

Fill in the blank using a suitable preposition:

Students today do not have respect ______ authority.

I think the most suitable preposition would be to, but the answer given in the book was for.


  • Prepositions are tricky. The book is correct however, respect for something is the idiomatic usage.
    – Helmar
    Oct 10, 2016 at 17:38
  • 2
    The only real answer for most questions about why prepositions are the way they are is "Because English is like that." You have respect for someone or something - that's just the way it is.
    – stangdon
    Oct 10, 2016 at 18:52
  • @stangdon I agree. I could suggest some odd cases where respect to authority would be fine, but I don't want to muddy the waters of what is a perfectly good answer.
    – Andrew
    Oct 10, 2016 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


{verb} to X "aims" the action of a verb toward X.

This doesn't have sense with have X in the sense of possess X, because the action of possession can be aimed/targeted toward what you are trying to take, but not anything else. Saying "I possess the ball to John" doesn't work, for example.

For X works because a meaning of for is not to express what you are targeting in an action but instead expresses the owner, reason, or purpose, or an object that is involved in being the owner, reason or purpose. "I possess the ball for John" works (John is the reason why I'm keeping the ball, maybe he asked me to hold it).


OP is getting confused between two (three?) different idiomatic usages...

1: I have respect for the law...
2a: ...but with respect to sexual orientation I think that's a personal matter...
2b: ...but in respect of sexual orientation I think that's a personal matter

  • 1
    Might I respectfully suggest rather 'Students today do not show any respect to authority. Oct 10, 2016 at 18:49
  • No, @EdwinAshworth, I think that's a red herring. To goes with show there, not with respect.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 10, 2016 at 19:23
  • @Colin Fine The exercise is to try to pinpoint the source of OP's misconceptions. Oct 10, 2016 at 19:32
  • @Edwin, Colin: I accept that show respect to authority does in fact occur. But it's far less common than show respect for authority anyway - AND to is virtually unknown in the form have respect to authority, where it's invariably for. Oct 10, 2016 at 20:40
  • I'm suggesting (strongly) that the common three-word string 'show respect to' is quite likely to be informing OP's attraction to the choice of 'to'. Oct 10, 2016 at 21:22

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