Which preposition should I choose? (When I want to say that we need to have an appointment for treatment)

We make an appointment to a dentist.


We make an appointment for a dentist.

Or maybe other preposition?

N.b. I can guess that the preposition "for" denotes that the dentist by himself is sick and the appointment is for him. But I'm not sure about that.


As @FumbleFingers said in comments, the most likely use the preposition with:

We need to make an appointment with a dentist.

Also, we often use the direct article to mean either "my regular dentist" or even "any dentist in general":

We need to make an appointment with the dentist.

We'd most likely use the indefinite article a in a case where the person making the appointment does not regularly go to the dentist.

But really, the most natural usage is not to use a preposition at all. We'd use either a possessive or a noun adjunct:

We need to make a dentist's appointment.

We need to make a dentist appointment.

Either form is correct - I would personally use the possessive, but the non-possessive looks natural to me as well (and in rapidly-spoken English, you can barely detect the difference between the two).

Interestingly enough, the popularity of the possessive is different for different medical professionals. For dentist, using Google Ngram, it looks like the non-possessive has been the most common usage since about 1965:

dentist appointment

But for doctor, the possessive is by far the most common (in fact, "doctor appointment" sounds unnatural to me):

enter image description here

I am guessing that this is purely a matter of pronunciation: it's difficult to pronounce the [sts] cluster at the end of dentist's distinctly, so people just leave off the final [s] and that has migrated to written English as well. The [rs] at the end of doctor's is easy to pronounce, so it has remained the preferred usage.

  • Your "Google NGram" link just has the default (Albert Einstein, etc.) search terms. This is the one you want. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 31 '19 at 15:28
  • @FumbleFingers - Note your link is broken because of the way apostrophes are handled in URLs. I can't link directly to a search with apostrophes, so I linked to the default Ngram page instead. – Canadian Yankee Jan 31 '19 at 15:32
  • 2
    Note that if you switch to the BrE corpus, it's noticeable that Brits remain more firmly wedded to the appointment with the... version for ...dentist. But with doctor, everyone is much happier with the apostrophized form (and almost no-one likes the bare I have a doctor appointment tomorrow version). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 31 '19 at 15:32
  • My first link isn't completely broken. If you just click on the search lots of books button, you'll get the chart. With the "default" link, you'd have a lot more work to do entering the search terms by hand. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 31 '19 at 15:34
  • @FumbleFingers - I see that you're using the article the, which is an interesting distinction from the OP's use of a - I'll edit my answer to discuss this usage. – Canadian Yankee Jan 31 '19 at 15:35

In AmE you can say:

I have to make a dentist appointment.

I have to make a dentist's appointment.

I have to make an appointment with the dentist.

I have to make an appointment to see the dentist.

I have to make an appointment for the dentist.

Even that last one, which seems as though you're saying that you're making an appointment on behalf of the dentist, can mean that you need to see the dentist. There, "the dentist" is a kind of metonymy for "dental work" or "a dental checkup".

It's like saying

I have to make an appointment for my annual state automobile inspection.

There, the object of for is the service that will be performed, and that is the meaning above, with for the dentist as well, although in a roundabout way where "the dentist" stands for the services performed at a dental office.

We can even ask

How did the dentist go?

and we mean "How did your dental appointment turn out?"

It's like asking

How was church?

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.