There is a question on my English test paper:

What the poor man did actually inspired a feeling of sympathy __ all of us.

(A)in (B)from

The answer is (A). However, I don't know why and what difference between the both choices in this sentence.

Therefore, I turned to my teacher for explanation,but my teacher just said that "from" should be connected with a more "moving" verb like "go".

From my perspective,it didn't ring true at all because the word "from" didn't modify the verb "inspired" but the noun "a feeling of sympathy".

So, could you tell me why the answer should be (A) instead of (B)?

  • 1
    @jason "What the poor man did" is a noun phase that is independent of the verb "inspired" so the example is grammatically correct.
    – Rykara
    Dec 29, 2018 at 22:12
  • @JasonBassford Thanks for your answer and showing your idea about my article. First,the sentence is correct because the what-clause is truly a subject in this sentence not "the poor man". Second, actually, even though the source of teachers is credible to me,I still will contemplate whether I can accept their answers. If I can not accept it,I should find out more answers from the other people for more comprehensive understandings, shouldn't I? Finally,it will be nice of you to give reasons.
    – Chang yo
    Dec 30, 2018 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


You have to look at the words and how the words fit together. English is a Germanic/Latinate (specifically, French) hybrid.

The answer to why in works but from does not lies with the verb inspire, which is of Latin origin; the Latin verb is made from the prefix in (which means "into") and the root spirare (which means "to breathe"). Compare the word respiration.

to inspire means literally to send breath into someone, and figuratively it means to send an idea or a truth into someone, breath or air being a sort of divine energy.

So, the man's actions filled you with a feeling of sympathy as lungs are filled with air. They created that feeling in you. They inspired in you a feeling of ...

You could also say that his actions elicited that emotion from you, and that verb also comes from Latin, and is formed from the prefix e (meaning "out") and the root licere to draw, to pull, and thus, "to draw out". That's why elicit and from go together.

  • To be honest, your explanation is very incredible and thorough,and I'm completely shocked by what way you use to explain. It's the first time when I heard someone use "the origin of words" to decide which preposition is correct. Anyway,your reply is easy to understand and reasonable. Thus, thanks for your totally useful help. And,in this way,can I decide which preposition should be used for every verb ?
    – Chang yo
    Dec 30, 2018 at 0:09
  • 1
    With Latin verbs which have been taken into English, mainly via medieval French during the Middle English period, the morphology of the Latin verb, the prefix especially, determines what prepositions the verb "licenses".
    – TimR
    Dec 30, 2018 at 0:26
  • I'll bear it in mind,and I truly appreciate your help very much.:)
    – Chang yo
    Dec 30, 2018 at 0:39
  • Sometimes the combination might seem redundant, as in circumnavigate around. google.com/…
    – TimR
    Dec 30, 2018 at 13:43
  • I'm sorry,but what did you mean?
    – Chang yo
    Jan 1, 2019 at 15:38

It might help you see why "in" is correct it's you rearrange the sentence like this:

What the poor man did actually inspired in all of us a feeling of sympathy.

This arrangement is more dramatic/stylized because it emphasizes the word "sympathy" and not likely to be said in actual dialogue. But it is grammatically correct and you can see the proposition relates to the verb, not the noun.

In actual day-to-day speaking, many a listener would likely treat for/in as interchangeable and not think "for" was technically incorrect.

  • Thanks for your reply first. However,I think the sentence after rearranged is still odd. In my opinion, inspire is transitive verb,so it is strange to put "in all of us" behind"inspire" :(
    – Chang yo
    Dec 29, 2018 at 13:26
  • 2
    @Chang yo The direct object of inspire in the answer here is a feeling of sympathy. A prepositional phrase can intervene between verb and object. He held in his hand the book she had given him.
    – TimR
    Dec 30, 2018 at 13:47
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo cool~ Thanks for your explanation. I got you.
    – Chang yo
    Jan 1, 2019 at 15:41

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