I have been learning English recently, but I have problems with learning English verbs and prepositions. I know how some verbs work.

  1. I let you do it
  2. I allow you to do it
  3. I said to you a week ago
  4. I told you a week ago

However, I want to improve my oral skills and verbs are most important for it. Please, give me some advise. How can I learn about "verb + preposition" combinations?

  • As John's answer says, there are many different phenomena in these sentences. The specific issue of "why" you say something to someone, but you tell them with no preposition, is covered in more detail on this earlier question. But I don't know whether it will help with other verbs, and it certainly won't explain why let takes an unmarked infinitive complement, whereas allow requires an marked infinitive. Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


There are many different phenomena in the sentences you list.
Most of them don't really have much to do with prepositions in general, but with specific constructions.

  1. I let you do it is a complex sentence with an unmarked infinitive complement.
  2. I allow you to do it is a complex sentence with a marked infinitive complement.

  3. I said X to you a week ago is a simple sentence with a direct object X and an indirect object you. The verb say does not allow the Dative Alternation.

  4. I told you X a week ago is the same structure, with the same objects.
    But the verb tell does allow the Dative Alternation, and this is the alternate version.
    The unalternated version, I told X to you a week ago, is also correct.

The "mark" in both cases 1 and 2 is the infinitive complementizer to.
This is not a preposition and does not behave like one.
For one thing, certain verbs (like let) allow one to delete to before infinitive complements,
while most verbs, like allow, require a to to mark infinitives.

In cases 3 and 4, the to is part of a bitransitive (transfer) verb -- one that has two objects.
The indirect object in such a sentence can usually be marked with to, if it follows the direct object.
However, if it precedes the direct object (the Dative Alternation), then to is not allowed.

  • 2
    I might add that I'm unable, as usual, to log in to this site, because it wants me to change my password and doesn't recognize any of my alter egos in ELU.SE or Ling.SE. So I can't make comments except on answers I post. As a guest, natch. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 18:40
  • 3
    Have you tried contacting the stack exchange team directly to try and get a resolution to this?
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 19:16
  • I have no idea which team that is, nor how to contact them; I'm not a S.E person, just a linguist. There has always been something weird about my S.E logins, and I've had to have somebody fix it up several times. By now gods alone know what shape it's in. And who and how to fix it. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 16:33
  • Ah, I just tried it and the password that I use does not meet the security standard. Since I don't want to set and remember yet another S.E password, I'll just have to pass this time. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 16:40
  • And, of course, since I must log in to post (though not to comment), I can't post in meta about tags, so I'll just link it here instead. Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 17:09

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