Data and language for research – day 4: using words with dependent prepositions

Data and language for research – day 4: using words with dependent prepositions

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The English language contains lots of prepositions that are used in a variety of different ways.

Some nouns, verbs and adjectives are followed by a specific preposition.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a strong set of rules about which preposition is used in each case but we can see some links between synonyms.

Nouns followed by a dependent preposition

An interest (meaning: wanting to know or learn about something)

  • Preposition: in
  • Pronunciation: the first ‘e’ in this word is not pronounced, so the words has two syllables rather than three – /ˈɪntrəst/
  • These adjectives are often used with this noun: active, considerable, great, special
  • These verbs are often used with this noun: attract, generate, express, show, maintain, lose

Our team had a special interest in the long-term consequences of a change in diet.

 The word interest does have lots of other meanings. You can use a dictionary to learn more about this word.

 An interplay (meaning: the way things affect each other)

  • Preposition: between (also sometimes: of)
  • Similar nouns that use the same preposition: interaction
  • The prefix ‘inter-’ is used before certain verbs, nouns and adjectives to mean ‘between’.

Intercity, interaction, interface

Here we can see the interplay between the animals and their habitat.

 A ramification (meaning: the complex or unexpected way that an action or decision affects other things)

  • Preposition: of
  • Similar nouns that use the same preposition: consequence, influence, result, outcome, complication

The ramifications of reduced government spending in this region are clearly evident.

(A) variance (meaning: an amount of difference or change between things)

  • Preposition: in
  • This noun can be countable or uncountable
  • Pronunciation: The first syllable of this word contains the double vowel sound /eə/ – /ˈveəriəns/
  • Similar nouns that use the same preposition: difference

Even minor variances in temperature can have startling effects on their habitat.

Verbs followed by a dependent preposition

Correlate (meaning: when things like facts or figures are closely connected – not by chance)

  • Preposition: with (also sometimes: to)
  • These adverbs are often used with this verb: significantly, strongly, closely
  • Similar verbs that use the same preposition: connect

The responses to questions about pay correlated significantly with gender.

Relate (meaning: to show a connection to one or more things)

  • Preposition: to
  • These adverbs are often used with this verb: loosely, closely, directly, strongly, clearly, primarily, specifically
  • Similar verbs that use the same preposition: connect, link

It is possible to closely relate the success of the campaign to sustained communication between key stakeholders.

Tend (meaning: to be likely to do something or to usually do something)

  • Preposition: to
  • Pronunciation: When put together with the preposition ‘to’ in speaking, the ‘d’ at the end of the verb is often not pronounced. – /tend/ /tuː/

People under 30 tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on eating out.

Adjectives followed by a dependent preposition

Proportional (meaning: suitable in terms of size or amount them viewed in relation to another factor)

  • Preposition: to
  • Similar adjectives that use the same preposition: relevant, appropriate

The dosage should be proportional to patient body weight.

Examples of this language in use

Examples of dependent prepositions from this lesson can be found in the following extract.

On the emergence of the correlation between life expectancy and the variance in the age at death


Over the past several decades, there has been a renewed interest in the interplay between lifespan inequality and life expectancy in wild and human populations. In humans, for example, it is a well-documented phenomenon that social health risk factors (e.g. social determinants of health) and social conditions operate as fundamental causes of disease and death (see, e.g. [1–3] and references therein) and underlie the variability in ages at death in a population whereby, for example, individuals with low socio-economic status and/or with social disadvantage tend to die at younger ages than those in more privileged positions [4]. While demographers use a variety of metrics to quantify this variability in lifespans (see [5] and references therein for a summary), two of the most commonly used metrics are the variance in the ages at death, σ2, and the ‘lifespan disparity’ [6–10], e† . These metrics’ useful demographic interpretations are what probably drive their popularity: the latter (e†) has been shown to measure the average life expectancy lost due to death [9,10] and is intimately related to other information-theoretic lifespan inequality metrics (see [11] for a discussion); the former (σ2) is a more traditional statistical measure of dispersion that describes the age-wise spread of mortality in the population’s deaths distribution. Empirical work using these lifespan inequality metrics finds that in modern human populations both e† and σ2 are positively correlated with life expectancy at birth (e0) for e0⪅40 years, uncorrelated for e0≈40 years, and negatively correlated for e0>40 years [12–16]. One ramification of this particular three-phased pattern of correlation is that e† and σ2 are positively correlated, a well-known empirical finding that was only recently partially explained theoretically by the work of Fernandez & Beltrán-Sánchez [17], which shows that e† can be expanded in a series whose terms are proportional to the central moments of the deaths distribution, with the lowest-order term in the expansion proportional to σ2. But why do both e†and σ2 follow the particular three-phased pattern of change in their correlation with e0? And does this regularity extend beyond modern human populations and hold for other species?

This extract is taken from: Fernandez Oscar E., Beltrán-Sánchez Hiram, 2022 On the emergence of the correlation between life expectancy and the variance in the age at death R. Soc. open sci. 9220020220020 http://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.220020

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Lesson tags: Dependent prepositions, English for scientists, language for research
Back to: English for Scientists