I'd like to know which preposition should be used in the following:

  1. John is an idol of / to many teenagers.
  2. John is the idol of / to many teenagers.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • This is not really a collocation. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 24 '19 at 14:25
  • Is your question about the use of articles? It's unclear what you're asking because you've bolded both the articles and the prepositions. – CowperKettle Jan 24 '19 at 15:19


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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.