TO, ON, ABOUT: Prepositions of behavior in English



I really need to be less hard on myself about sports.

Hi. James from engVid.

Today's lesson is going to be about prepositions and behaviour.

I want to show you how we use prepositions to talk about people's behaviour.

Now, behaviour is how someone acts, their actions.

You know, are they good to you, nice to you?

So what is their behaviour like?

Why is this important?

Because you know prepositions is being used as one thing.

Today I want to show you a lesson how we take the idea from the preposition, we put it with

an adjective, and then we can talk about people's behaviour.

Are you ready?

Let's go to the board.

"I need to be less hard on myself."

Well, you know "need", you know "hard", but "hard on myself", what does that mean?

Well, Mr. E is using a preposition, which is an adjective to talk about something he

is doing or some way he is acting.


"Hard" means strong, so he needs to be less strong on himself.

In this case he needs to be nicer to himself.

I used another one, "nicer to".

We're going to work on this now and you're going to figure out how you can start using

prepositions with adjectives to describe behaviour.

Okay, so, prepositions are most often used for direction, time, and the reason.

The reason why.


The reason why we do something.


The reason why we do something.

All right?

"I'm going to the store", "I'll meet you at 12 o'clock", "I did it for this".



But they can also be used to describe people's actions, or behaviour, or what they're doing.


So I'm going to give you three popular prepositions: "to", "on", and "about".

I will explain each one, and then give you some collocations which are words that go

together, co-location. Right?

Collocation, it means they're always generally found together, that will explain behaviour.

Okay? Let's go to the first one.


Everybody loves "to".


"To" means movement: "Go to the store."


I'm not going to say two people, because that's not a preposition, that's a number, but "to".

But when we add...

Use these adjectives before "to", we can say: "cruel to".

"He's cruel to you".

"Cruel" means not very nice.

Cruel is not nice, so he's cruel...

But, look.

See how we have direction?

Remember I said "to" means direction?

"He's cruel to you."

So the direction of his not-niceness goes to you.

On the next one we have "kind to".

"Kind" means nice.

They are nice or generous.


So, when someone's kind to you, they are nice to-you got it, direction again-you.



You know when someone's rude they act in a way that's not nice, they show disrespect

to you.


They say bad words or something.

When someone's "rude to", here we go again, "to" means direction and that direction is

to whoever they say, rude to them, rude to him, rude to me.


Who is the object?

And "helpful to", that's right.

Somebody or something was helpful to you, they gave you some help when you need it.

Help, and then full of help, they were full of help to you.

So we've just discussed "to" and we know it means movement, and in this case direction,

and these adjectives help us...

Tell us what the behaviour or actions are that they are doing to you.


You like that one?

I got another one.

It's a three-for-one sale, I'm going to teach you three.



Usually when we say "on" we mean to put on, like on top, like on the surface of something,


As direction means...

"To" means direction, "on" means on the surface or put it on.

And as you can see, I put my hand on me which means something, I bet you're going to understand,

is going to come on me.


So we want to use these adjectives before "on".

You can see my little picture, "on".

"Tough on", you know, Colgate is tough on grease or tough on this.

"Tough" means hard or strong.

So if someone's tough on you, for example, if your parents were tough on you when you

were a kid, they made...

They didn't make things easy for you.

They made you work for everything.

If somebody is tough on crime, they are not easy, they do not let it go, they don't say:

-"It's okay, it's okay."

-"It's not okay."

Blah, blah...

They're going to be hard.

It's similar to...

Oh wait, that's "hard to"...


Not "cruel to", but...

No, no, it's not similar at all.

I made a mistake.

I'm thinking of the one over here, which is "on", but: "It's tough on".

Let's go "easy on".

The exact opposite is "easy on".

If your parents were easy on you, when you made a mistake, they were like: "It's okay,


Or: "It's okay, daughter.

No problem.

We'll fix it for you."

So when people are easy on you they don't make anything difficult.

They make it easy and nice for you.


Life should be balanced, a little bit of tough love and a little bit of easy love is good.

Shouldn't be one way or the other.

Now, "rough on", ooh, if something's rough on you, that's not nice.

That's not nice.

As "tough on" means makes it hard, but can make you work, like, my teachers are tough

on me because they want me to do well.

It means they make it not easy for you so you can learn to be stronger.

When they make it easy on you, they take...

Maybe they understand you're tired or things are difficult at home, so they don't make

it too hard.

But when somebody's rough on you, they're not nice to you.

You know, they're rough on you because they're being mean, not nice on purpose.


So, that guy was rough on the student.

We say that's not fair, that's not nice.

If they were tough on the student, it's like: "He's tough, but the student will be better."

"He's rough on the students", they are not...

They are not being nice people.


It's different, so you got to know the difference between rough and tough.

They seem similar, in some cases they are, you know: "That exam was really rough on me",

it means difficult, it really kind of almost hurt me.

It was tough on me, it forced me to produce.


Similar, not the same.

What about number three?

All right, we have down here "about", but what about this one?

Well, "about" means approximately or in all directions.

You can see how I have here "approximately", it means: "Enh, from here it's about enh",

approximate; not exact.

And in all directions, he moved about town, went in all directions.


Now, here are the adjectives we're going to put before "about": "selfish about".

You know when we use reflexive pronouns?

"Yourself", "myself", "himself", or "herself", it talks about this person here, myself, I'm

talking about me.

When I'm selfish it's all about me, so I only care about myself.

So when I say: "You're selfish about the food", it means you think only about you and no one


It was selfish about him to not help other people.

How about "crazy about"?

This is a funny one, because you're going to say: "Oh, crazy about mean must mean, oh,

they're crazy, they're crazy people", no, it means I love it a lot.

It means, in a way, sort of crazy that you love it so much it's not normal.

So I'm crazy about this girl at work, I'm in love with her.

All right?

If you say: "I'm not crazy about something", it means I don't like it.

I know, this is funny because it seems the opposite of what you would think, right?

But when people are crazy about something, like I'm crazy about my new car, I love it.

I'm crazy about this new restaurant down in Soho, I love it.

I'm not so crazy about getting homework, I don't love it.


So though it seems like loco, if you're Spanish, or crazy, it's different.

It means to have intense feelings about it.

What about "mean about"?

Well, "mean" means...

"Mean" means, see?


It means definition, right?

But "mean" also means not nice.

That man is mean.

So in this case it means you are not nice about something.

You were mean about inviting me out.

It means you weren't nice about it.

You were mean about giving me money.

You were not nice about it.

You were mean about talking to the kids.

You were not nice about it.

The opposite of that would be "kind", he was kind about letting me know what was going


They were nice, they were gentle, they were loving...

Well, not necessarily loving, but they were nice.


They were kind about helping the old lady.

They were nice about it.


So we've now noticed how we use prepositions that you know to tell you about time, direction,

or the reason why we do something, but you can also take these prepositions, put them

after an adjective and you can tell about how, not why, but how someone is behaving.

Cool, huh?

By using the idea, for instance, for "to" for direction, you can show: In what direction

is the cruelty, the kindness, the rudeness, or the helpfulness going?

What direction?

With the "on", you can see that it's being put on someone, they're feeling it because

it's being placed on them, like my hand.

And "about" we can say in the subject, about this subject, approximately this subject,

we can understand.



I see you're smiling which is a good thing, because we have to do a little quiz, and yeah,

time for you to learn something new.


Okay, so I talked about putting prepositions with adjectives to describe behaviour, and

I want to do something right now because I gave some words or introduced some words you

may not know, so I want to give you alternate or different words to use, and give you a

deeper understanding, so not just understanding what the preposition does, but what the actual

adjectives mean.

For example, "cruel" means mean or not nice, so you can use this word or this one.

"He is a cruel man.", "He is a mean man".

"Rude" means not impolite, impolite.


"Polite" is, like: "Please" and "Thank you".

"Impolite" is just grabbing and taking, not polite.

So if you are rude, you are also impolite.

"Nasty" means unpleasant, not nice, but it also could be for things like smell.

If someone goes...

That's rather nasty.

It's unpleasant.

It is not pleasing, you don't like it, it's not nice.

"Tough" can mean painful or difficult.


So, if something's tough on you, it means painful.

All right?

But it can also mean difficult, it means hard to do.


He had a...

She had a tough time with her pregnancy.

It was painful.

Painful and difficult.

"Rough" can be difficult and unpleasant, so you can see how "rough" can be these two,

but notice how this is both negative words, and when I said to you if somebody's rough

on you, it's not good, because there's nothing nice about it?

But "tough" can be difficult, and that's how we can tell the difference between these two



"Rough on" and "tough on".

My teacher was tough on me to make me better, difficult, they made it hard so I could be


But here, that unpleasant makes it not nice.



So we've got that one, now I want to do the quiz, your favourite part of this whole show,

I mean video, I mean lesson.

[Laughs] Maybe to me it's a show.

All right.

So, number one: "My coach was __________ me so I could be the best."

That's right, "tough on", "tough on".

Okay, so number two: "She was __________ the dog, so they took it away."

Good, you got it.

"She was cruel to the dog".

I want to do a quick note here.

She was cruel to the dog because "cruel to" is mean, not nice.


Now, you might have said she was rough on the dog, because "rough", remember we talked

about was unpleasant, too?

She was rough on them, that would be kind of right, but "cruel to" gives more the idea

of being not nice.


So, some people might have put "rough on", but remember "rough", it would be "tough",

"rough", "cruel", and if someone is going to take something away from you, and especially

if it's an alive thing like a dog, you probably have to be cruel because we do call it "animal

cruelty", not "animal roughness".

Anyway. Next one.

You got that one. Let's do number three.

"The teacher was very __________ her students."

Well, I hope the teacher was like how I hope I'm being with you, which is helpful, because

I think she was helpful to her students, and that's why they loved her.


I don't know if you love me, but you know, it'd be a start.

We've had this relationship so long.

And finally: "Her husband is __________ her. He loves her a lot."

Crazy, crazy for being...

It's an old song.


Crazy, he was crazy about her.

Remember we said that funny one where someone's crazy about something, they love it?

Even though they should be mental.

In a way you are.

When you love something you kind of lose your, what we say, common sense, and you believe

in all that is good in the world.

And that belief goes from me to you because I am crazy about you.

You come here every week and you give me some reason to come back and see you.

I hope this video was helpful to you.


To show you a little bit different, to give you more of an understanding of prepositions

to make the language easier for you so you don't always go: "Why do the English people

say that?"

Now you can go: "I got it!

Now I have a deeper understanding, I can use the language better and be more like a native


And on that note, I want to help you some more, of course, so why don't you go to...?

Subscribe to engVid, which is www dot eng as in video...

English, vid as in (


Subscribe somewhere around here, and I'm looking forward to seeing you there.


And as always, thank you very much for being with us this long.

Have a good one.

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