Sometimes I notice the preposition on after some words (verbs) like cheat, advise etc. When I see the preposition after the words (verbs) I always think "can we avoid it after the words?".


1a -> He cheated on me.
1b -> He cheated me.

2a -> I advise them on what to do.
2b -> I advise them what to do.

Can I rewrite them without the preposition? And if yes, do they work in the same way?

In the second example. I think the preposition worked fine as the speaker was talking about a topic. And on the topic she advises. But in the first one the preposition seems unnecessary. I meant to say it could be written without the preposition. But I am not sure if it works in the same way.

  • In AmE, advise them what to do is incorrect; advise is not doubly transitive; it can only take one object. You can advise a hamburger, or you can advise him on what to order, or advise him to order a hamburger, but you can't advise him a hamburger. So you advise what to do, but you advise them on what to do. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 17:58

3 Answers 3



It depends how do you use the verbs of cheat and advise --transitively or intransitively.

Let's take the first verb's example from OALD:

If you use it transitively, you cheat someone/something. The preposition is not required here and the verb will take direct object. OALD's example is -

She is accused of attempting to cheat the taxman.

Likewise, if you use it intransitively, you cheat on someone. The preposition is required here and the verb won't take direct object here. OALD's example is -

He's cheating on his wife.

  • But cheat on has a quite different meaning than cheat. Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 18:01
  • @PeterShor I was talking about the verb pattern and its usage in the sentence.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 4:12

One of the most challenging aspects of English verbs is that the semantics of the verbs can change considerably when using particles. Particles look like prepositions, and function like them to a certain degree, but semantically speaking, they alter the meaning of the verb they co-occur with. In the case of "cheat" vs. "cheat on," for example. "To cheat" means to use some kind of trickery to get something or more of something from someone rather than playing by accepted rules of exchange. "To cheat on." on the other hand, though related in many ways, means you are in a committed relationship with one person and have sex with a different person. You are said "to cheat on" the person you are in a relationship with.

I'm not sure why you are considering whether to leave such things out or not. I'm not sure what you are working out when you do this, but in this algorithm you're working through, put in a component that recognizes that these particles significantly alter meaning and are not dispensable semantically, even if grammatically the sentence still works.

  • You can cheat on a test. Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 11:42

These example each have a different meaning. Leaving the "on" has to depend on which meaning is closer to the meaning you want.

1a -> He cheated on me.

We had a relationship and he had sex with (or otherwise did something sexual) some other person.

1b -> He cheated me.

He tricked you out of something. He probably gained money (or something else tangible) that you lost to him.

2a -> I advise them on what to do.

You regularly give facts and options related to the decisions they make.

2b -> I advise them what to do.

You regularly advise them on which which action to take. We would hope that this also involves explaining facts and options, but it may not have.

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