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As a nonnative English teacher in South Korea, .

I've seen and heard a lot "Be kind to the elderly."

As far as I know, the preposition "to" ususally comes after the word " kind".

One day, one of my students asked me, "Can the preposition " to" be used after the words "angry", "popular", and "gentle" ?

Then, I replied to his question.

The words "angry", "popular" and "gentle" must be followed by "with", not "to".

Just think of those expression as idiomatic.

I can't seem to explain why.

But, as far as i'm concerned, those two words "angry" and "popular" seem to be followed by "with".
For example, in the sentence "I was agry with you.", "you" did something to me which made me angry. Right here,the preposition "with" means you and I are "involved in something" or "doing something together". In the process, you made me angry. The preposition "with" includes interaction with two people.

That's why "with" seems to be used with "angry". My theory of the "with" may be applicable to the word "popular".

The word "kind" doesn't seem to mean more interaction like the word "angry" and "popular". "Be kind to the elderly" means "you should do nice things to them whether they have done something to you or not"

To me, the word "gentle" seems to collocate with " to" rather than "with" like the word "kind"

Is my theory about the preposition between "with" and "to" right?

Could any of native speakers of English explain the difference?

I'd appreciate it if someone could clarify the difference.

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I think that you have largely stated correctly that one should say or write "kind to" but "angry with". I would more often say "gentle with" not 'gentle to", as in:

Be gentle with the cat"

or

Be gentle with the crystal, it is fragile.

But I don't think your theory about why this is is correct, nor can I offer any consistent theory of my own. I think the case of "gentle" tends to disprove your theory.

Perhaps these are simply idioms to be accepted as they are, without any systemic reason why.

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