Could you tell me which preposition I use after smart: in, about, or with when specifying something the person wants to be knowlegeable about. For example:

I want to get smart in math.

I want to get smart about math.

I want to get smart with math.


1 Answer 1


None of OP's examples sound idiomatic to me. We don't generally talk about getting / becoming "smart" anyway (you're either smart or you're not, same as you're either tall or not), and we don't usually restrict the scope of adjectival "smart" to a specific subject (being "smart" implies having high general intelligence).

To a lesser extent, the same applies to "clever" - we usually say He's good at maths rather than He's smart / clever at maths. There's not really a "preferred" preposition for smart ??? [subject] because we don't often use that format anyway.

In short, "smart" (=clever, bright, intelligent) is the wrong adjective. It's better to use something like "proficient" (=skilled, accomplished, expert). And check out this NGram showing that both in and at occur with "proficient".

(For the avoidance of doubt, note that I speak and write British English (BrE), as opposed to "American" (AmE). With color / colour the difference is only in writing, but math / maths reflects what we usually say.)

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    Nah - this is almost entirely a British/American English usage split. I don't necessarily change every such case to BrE when I'm doing "cut&paste", but obviously if I'm actually typing the words myself, I'll write maths and colour, not math and color. Mar 2, 2021 at 15:03
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    I had no idea maths was BrE. Thanks for explaining. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – EllieK
    Mar 2, 2021 at 15:18
  • You're probably not the only one, so thanks for calling attention to it - I'll add a brief note to the answer in case these comments get "tidied away" in the future. Mar 2, 2021 at 17:00

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