Grammar Chaos: Whether to Use With or To

Posted on Nov 01, 2017

In this entry of the Grammar Chaos blog series, we bring you a quick lesson on how to master using with and to in a phrase or sentence, along with some examples.

Book with magnifying glass

What are the correct ways to use with and to? Take a look at some tips and tricks of the grammar trade, and you’ll be nailing these prepositions in no time!

Prepositions are tricky things. They go well with some words and mix poorly with others. Certainly, with and to are no exceptions. In most cases, they are almost interchangeable. But if you take a glance at these words through a metaphorical magnifying glass, you’ll find some finer differences and use them correctly!

Compare is a common example here. While some people are prone to mixing up the phrases “compare to” and “compare with,” others are a little more careful and use them appropriately. (Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this page, you’ll be one of the careful ones!) Basically, “compare with” is used when the objects being compared are under the same classification or category. Also, a person would often use “compare with” when they want to emphasize the objects’ similarities.

  1. He thinks his first ever published novel is groundbreaking and compares it with Stephen King’s It.

  2. As a forensic scientist, her job is to compare the suspect’s fingerprints with those of the killer.

  3. She would compare the lines of his palm with the rivers of her home country.

On the other hand, “compare to” is used when the objects involved fall under different classifications or categories. Additionally, the phrase is also used when the speaker wishes to point out the objects’ differences as well as their similarities.

  1. Compared to dogs, cats are more independent and acrobatic.

  2. Shakespeare has been known to compare life to a stage and people to actors.

  3. The artist compared her hand-drawn portrait to the model’s likeness.

Another common dilemma when it comes to using with and to is when they are matched with the verb talk. One would use “talk to” when the conversation among the subjects is specific. If the conversation is general, however, one would use “talk with.” The same rule applies for the verb speak. Still, the use of with and to in this situation is a little more lenient than when they are paired with compare.

  1. They needed to talk to him about his upcoming seminar on charity work.

  2. I spoke to you over the phone yesterday regarding your job application.

  3. He talked with his friends all night and arrived home late.

  4. She spoke with her client for hours and still couldn’t understand the pitch.

These are just two of the many, many verbs that use with or to in a phrase or sentence. Unfortunately, it’s hard to pin down the general uses of these very commonly used prepositions because they depend largely on the verbs they’re paired with. Hopefully, however, these tips have provided you an excellent start on whether to use with or to the right way!

Aching for another grammar tip? More helpful hacks can be found in our Grammar Chaos series on the 1-Hour Proofreading blog. Check it out!


Disclaimer: Image is not ours. Credit to the owner.

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