I'm solving now tests in English and one of the sentences is:

"Visitors to the zoo are asked not to... the lions."

The options for the missed part are:

a) bite

b) fret

c) nag

d) tease

And according to the key of the book the correct answer is d (tease). I don't understand why it can not be c (nag) as well. What makes option d more accurate than option c?

In addition, I don't understand the usage of the preposition "to" in this sentence. Should it not be "Visitors in the zoo are asked not to tease the lions"?

  • 1
    Could you add a definition of nag that fits your context? Also it could be "to the zoo" (where you went) or "in/at the zoo" (where you are). – user3169 Nov 2 '16 at 3:49
  • Yes, of course. From Merriam Webster: Simple Definition of nag : to annoy (someone) by often complaining about his or her behavior, appearance, etc. : to annoy (someone) with repeated questions, requests, or orders : to cause (someone) to feel annoyed or worried for a long period of time – Judicious Allure Nov 2 '16 at 3:59
  • 1
    OK, then which one(s) would apply to interactions between humans and zoo animals? someone (used here as the object of the action) generally refers to humans. So human-human would be nagging , but not human-animal. – user3169 Nov 2 '16 at 4:08
  • 4
    It is not advisable, under any circumstances, to do any of these things to the lions. (The idiot who wrote your test confuses correct with best. None of the options is incorrect in any way.) – P. E. Dant Nov 2 '16 at 5:01
  • 3
    @P.E.Dant Yes, but I'd say that the formal passive form implies this is a sign or command from the zoo. I can't imagine a zoo putting up a warning sign not to bite the lions (unless they had already been sued for this begin absent ;-) ) – Angew Nov 2 '16 at 7:17

Unfortunately, when a dictionary entry uses (someone), it can sometimes apply to non-humans, like objects or animals. (See this post.)

This is not one of those cases. Nagging happens between people. The (stereo)typical example is of a wife nagging her husband specifically with questions and commands. It does not really mean to annoy in a broad sense.
enter image description here

Did you remember to take out the recycling? I thought I asked you to clean the bathroom? You said you’d quit smoking! (Source.)

You can't really nag an animal. Instead you can tease them. enter image description here

When you tease an animal, you are annoying them or bothering them, often by making faces (above). This is usually done to provoke the animal. I'm sure you've seen kids do something similar.

As for to, I guess it is simply idiomatic. Visitors to the zoo do not have to be people inside the zoo, as far as I can tell. They can be people who will visit or regularly visit the zoo. Visitors in the zoo explicitly means people inside the zoo.

  • Does "nag" imply words being spoken? – Andrew Savinykh Nov 2 '16 at 10:07
  • @AndrewSavinykh - Normally, yes. You could nag someone via a letter, or you could nag someone by leaving post-it notes everywhere, but nearly always the words would be spoken. And it definitely requires words, not actions. – AndyT Nov 2 '16 at 11:52
  • A picture is worth a thousand words! – Andrew Nov 2 '16 at 14:04

Dictionaries are all well and good, but all too often a term will not have the same nuance in a different language even if the dictionary definition is similar. The best way to learn what a word really means is to see how it's used in context.

"Nag" does mean "harass", but in a kind of familiar way, as one family member to another. You would not nag a lion -- you can only nag a person, and even then, usually only someone fairly close to you, who you see regularly over a long period of time. A mother can nag a child, or a child can nag a parent. Sometimes a friend can nag another friend.

But any other relationship and we would probably use a different word.

Of the remaining choices, while it would be inadvisable to bite the lions, tease makes more sense in context. Fret doesn't fit at all. As you say, annoy would also work, or harass, or bother, but these aren't choices.

As for "to", it's simply the correct preposition to use for these kind of activities. We go to the zoo, or to the park, in the same way we go to a store or to the library.

Yes, it does make perfectly logical sense that the sign should make the request not to the visitors coming to the zoo, but rather the visitors who are already in the zoo. Unfortunately, that's just not how it's usually phrased.

Some other examples:

Visitors to the National Museum are asked not to touch the exhibits.

Visitors to Hollywood should know that they are unlikely to see a movie star just walking around.

Visitors to the gallery must have an appointment.

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