Why do we use "to this" when we say something like "if you are listening to this" and not just "this" without "to"? For example "to" is not used when we say "if you are reading this".

  • 2
    Because some English verbs require a preposition when they have an object (listen to, look at, pick up) and some don't. Mar 6, 2021 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


It is (or should be) part of the dictionary definition of each verb (and many adjectives and nouns) what kinds of object or complement they take.

It happens that hear takes a direction object:

I heard him.

but listen requires a "to" object:

I listened to him.

Similarly, see takes a direct object:

Did you see the show?

and watch also takes a direct object:

Did you watch the show?

but look does not, and requires an "at" object:

Did you look at the book?

There's no rule or logic to this: it's just the way English happens to work at this stage in its history.

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