0

I have slightly changed the sentence in the question title to be both short and clear. The actual sentence I'm asking about is:

It would be nice of you to comfort that person in all the languages you can speak___.

I'm not sure of the proposition that would fill the blank. I thought of "speak in" but didn't find such a phrasal verb when I have searched it on the internet.

I have also searched for the possible prepositions that can come after the verb "speak" and found (with, of, and to) which came with different phrasing of sentences.

4
  • 2
    "in all the languages you can speak" is fine. You already have the preposition at the start of the phrase.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 7 '19 at 23:21
  • Thanks. So does that mean that "State all the languages you can speak" has to have a preposition? Or is it about the sentence structure as if it needed a one or not, and that "speak in" isn't considered a phrasal verb? Also, is ending the sentence with "speak" all of sudden is natural and smooth? (I don't think so)
    – Tasneem ZH
    Apr 8 '19 at 9:29
  • 1
    Actually, @Tasneem ZH, you are right: neither in is needed. "State all the languages you can speak" is perfectly normal. The usual phrase in English is to "speak a language": "speak in a language" is acceptable, but less common. The explanation in my comment wasn't wrong, but it was incomplete.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 8 '19 at 17:21
  • Your explanation and effort are already appreciated, but I would have been satisfied more with a detailed answer that addresses all the issues in my question.
    – Tasneem ZH
    Apr 8 '19 at 21:21
3

There is no need for a preposition here. You can say "speak a language" or "speak in a language", both are fine - though they have subtly different meanings.

I could say:

I speak French

Well, I don't really, though it's my strongest foreign language. That statement says that I am capable of speaking French. If I say:

I speak in French

Well, that's different. That's making the general claim that I speak in French generally. That would be even less true.

However, once you add the modal of possibility can, the difference disappears:

I can speak French
I can speak in French

Both of those are actually somewhat redundant, as they amount to the same as "I speak French" in most situations. They all mean the same thing - that I have the capability of speaking French.

Thus, "all the language you speak" or "all the language you can speak" are fine, and require no prepositions.

4
  • So, "speak in" would indicate a lesser capability of speaking a language fluently, right? Also, does "in" after "speak" and before "French" makes a prepositional phrase (in French) or a phrasal verb (speak in)? I'm more concerned about the structure of the sentence when it starts with the object, so if I said instead of "I speak in French" --> "French is what I speak", then where would the "in" fit? Isn't it the same as "I'm already aware of that matter" ---> "That matter is what I'm already aware of"?
    – Tasneem ZH
    Apr 8 '19 at 21:19
  • 1
    @TasneemZH No, "speak in" doesn't say anything about ability. It either means just the same as "speak", or, in limited circumstances, it is more active, more general; in some situations where "speak X" just indicates ability, it indicates actually doing it. But in some situations, both mean ability, and in some both mean actually doing it.
    – SamBC
    Apr 8 '19 at 21:32
  • 1
    @TasneemZH But with "French is what I speak", it's just another case where the 'in' doesn't matter, and including it would get some stuffy grammarians unhappy about ending a sentence with a preposition.
    – SamBC
    Apr 8 '19 at 21:34
  • I understand now. Thanks a lot! But what about the (phrasal verb) and (prepositional phrase) with "in"?
    – Tasneem ZH
    Apr 8 '19 at 21:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .