1. Wrong use of prepositions with certain verbs

Students frequently use a preposition with verbs where it is not needed. This may happen because there is confusion between a regular transitive verb which is not a phrasal verb and a similar noun which does need a preposition. Here are some examples:


Emphasise

The government emphasised on the importance of a free market.
The government emphasised the importance of a free market.

This error may be due to confusion between the verb emphasise (transitive; no preposition) with the noun emphasis (often followed by the preposition on).

The government put emphasis on the importance of a free market
 

Here are some other verbs where students tend to put a preposition where it is not needed:

 

Discuss

The committee will discuss about the effects of urban renewal.
The committee will discuss the effects of urban renewal.
The committee will have a discussion about the effects of urban renewal.
 

Lack

Teenagers lack of knowledge about current affairs.
Teenagers are lack of knowledge about current affairs.
Teenagers lack knowledge about current affairs.
 

 

Demand

The workers are demanding for better fringe benefits.
The workers are demanding better fringe benefits.
There is a demand for better fringe benefits among workers.
 


Request

The employee requested for compassionate leave.
The employee requested compassionate leave.
The employee made a request for compassionate leave.
 

 

Stress

Our teacher stressed on the importance of the 80% attendance requirement.

Our teacher stressed the importance of the 80% attendance requirement.

Our teacher laid stress on the importance of the 80% attendance requirement.
 
  1. Semantic prosody

Semantic prosody describes the phenomenon in which certain seemingly neutral words can be perceived with positive or negative associations through frequent occurrences with particular collocations
There are 3 verbs where problems arise with Chinese learners:

 

 

Impose

To impose means to force people to do something they do not like. When native speakers use the verb impose, they use it with nouns like ban, tax or (unpopular) law giving a negative connotation. Chinese speakers often use impose with a neutral object like scheme or policy. In this case they should use a neutral verb like introduce or implement.
The school board imposed a scheme to encourage children to keep pets at school.

The school board introduced a scheme to encourage children to keep pets at school.



Improve

Native speakers use the verb improve with nouns that are not negative in meaning. Chinese learners often use improve with a negative noun such as unemployment or air pollution. They should use a noun that is neutral in meaning.

The government could improve the air pollution by phasing out diesel run buses.

The government could improve the air quality by phasing out diesel run buses.

Or:

 
The government could reduce the air pollution by phasing out diesel run buses.

 

Cause

This verb is usually followed by nouns/noun phrases that are negative. Chinese learners often collocate it wrongly with nouns that are positive in meaning.

The ban on leaded fuel will cause benefit to pedestrians.

The ban on leaded fuel will bring benefit to pedestrians.

A rise in the number of tourists will cause an increase in increased revenue.

A rise in the number of tourists will lead to/result in increased revenue.


Exercise 2 (Intermediate)

Put a tick on the box if the sentence is correct. Make the appropriate correction if it is wrong.
  1. The issues raised by the public speaker caused applause from the auditorium.

    Answer:
    Incorrect. Wrong collocation. Answer: brought about or led to


    Hide the answer.



  2. The building strategy will improve the housing problem in Hong Kong.

    Answer:
    Incorrect. Wrong collocation. Answer: deal with, solve or address


    Hide the answer.



  3. We need to improve the poor level of English among school leavers.

    Answer:
    Incorrect. Wrong collocation. Answer: deal with


    Hide the answer.



  4. The development of anti cancer drugs has caused great benefits.

    Answer:
    Incorrect. Wrong collocation. Answer: brought,brought about


    Hide the answer.



  5. The government will impose a ban on bringing foodstuffs through customs.

    Answer:
    Correct.


    Hide the answer.



  6. The attack on the terrorist base caused terrible reprisals.

    Answer:
    Correct.


    Hide the answer.



  7. Smoking cigarettes could cause damage to your lungs.

    Answer:
    Correct.


    Hide the answer.



  8. You need to improve your bad habits if you want to be popular.

    Answer:
    Incorrect. Wrong collocation. Answer: deal with,address


    Hide the answer.