I'd like to know which preposition should be used in the following:
- John is an idol of / to many teenagers.
- John is the idol of / to many teenagers.
I'd appreciate your help.
After her parents died in the crash, her uncle was father and mother to her.
There, to expresses the idea "in regard to her". He is not her own father. He is in the role of father and mother.
The preposition of on the other hand expresses the concept of "possession", broadly construed.
He is the father of those rambunctious boys.
So, to be an idol to someone expresses a role relationship.
He was an idol to them.
They regarded him as an idol. They looked to him as one looks to an idol. The admired-admirer relationship is foregrounded.
He was the idol of millions.
There, the "possessive" aspect is foregrounded, again possession broadly construed. Each of those millions might say "He is my idol".
So these are not competing collocations but the expression of different ideas.
John is an idol to many teenagers.
John is the idol of many teenagers.
Technically, you can also say, John is the idol to many teenagers, if you want to say that John is THE ultimate idol.
Google Books shows a higher frequency usage of “idol of” but “idol to” and “idol for” are also used to in the expression you want to use.
Idol of many teenagers/to many teenagers/for many teenagers.