If we want to use the verb answer, should we say: "answer to the phone" or "answer the phone"? How about other cases like answering (to) other things like someones question, query etc.

  • 2
    "Answer the phone". Or maybe "pick up the phone"?
    – user178049
    Mar 23 '17 at 8:10
  • Please see here for the definition of "answer to." Meanwhile, in the phrase, "the answer to someone's question," "answer" is a noun, not a verb, so the "to" acts in yet another capacity. Mar 23 '17 at 8:59
  • 1
    @TeacherKSHuang Prezackerly so. See my answer below! :) Mar 23 '17 at 9:04

The verb answer is normally used either without any Complements, or with a Direct Object:

  • "Yes", she answered. (no Complement)
  • Answer the question. (with Direct Object, the question)
  • I answered him. (with Direct Object him)
  • Answer the phone. (with Direct Object phone)

When answer means to respond as in the sentences above, it does not take preposition phrases as Complements:

  • *Answer to the question. (ungrammatical)
  • *I answered to him. (ungrammatical when used with this meaning).
  • *Answer to the phone. (ungrammatical)

Nouns cannot take Objects. For this reason when we use the noun "answer", we put the thing being answered in a preposition phrase with to:

  • The answer to the question ...
  • My answer to him ...


There is another meaning of the verb answer, to take orders from, obey, and explain your actions to someone: (definition from Cambridge Dictionaries). When used with this meaning the verb answer takes a to-preposition phrase as a Complement:

The Vice-Principal answers directly to the Principal.

  • I've upvoted your answer, but mind if I edit your post to say, "When answer means to respond as in the sentences above, it does not take preposition phrases as Complements because it is a noun:" I just want to make it more clear for readers that the reason is because it is a noun. Mar 23 '17 at 9:25
  • And as an aside, you've spelled "Complements" wrong :D. Mar 23 '17 at 9:26
  • @TeacherKSHuang Yes, edit away. Thanks! (I'm working now so can't loiter on ELL!!!) [But you mean because it is a *verb, right?] Mar 23 '17 at 9:32
  • 1
    Heh, yes, exactly! So I didn't even edit it; only corrected the spelling :D. Mar 23 '17 at 9:38
  • Thanks for the answer. How about this case: a search engines answers to the user's query. or should it be: a search engine answers user's query.
    – lonesome
    Mar 23 '17 at 11:22

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