Ice Cube is a famous rap music artist.
The Lumineers are a famous folk rock group.
While The Lumineers and Ice Cube might be musically different, they both can teach you something about English grammar.
Today, we will explore some of the grammar used in the works of these performers.
But first, we start with a few definitions.
Verbs and Prepositions
In recent Everyday Grammar stories, we have explored phrasal verbs – expressions that have a verb and a particle. A particle is a short word.
Phrasal verbs are idiomatic. They mean something different than what the individual words suggest.
Today, we will explore a related subject: verbs and prepositions that appear together in the same sentence. These verbs and prepositions might look like phrasal verbs, but they are not idiomatic.
On this program, we will look at how English speakers use two common verb and preposition combinations: “ask about” and “ask for.”
Our first example is “ask about.” “Ask” is the verb and “about” is the preposition.
You can think of “ask about” as a kind of curious group of words.
What do curious people do? They “ask about” something – information, advice, and so on.
How does one use “ask about?” Let us listen to an exchange between English speakers. The subject of their friendly chat: gossip.
Did you hear about Joe and Amy’s breakup?
Yes, but I don’t know anything about it. Tom asked about their breakup, too, but he didn’t get a clear answer.
In the exchange, one speaker tells about what Tom reportedly said. Tom was curious about the breakup and “asked about” the situation.
In a television show about popular culture, a broadcaster might use “ask about” in the following way:
“In our next interview, we will ask about the movie star’s marriage, children, and finances.”
Now, gossip is not the only time English speakers use “ask about.”
They might “ask about” many other subjects – experiences, jobs, and studies, for example.
You can also “ask about” people. In this case, you are asking about information about a person – their personality, public image and so on. American rapper Ice Cube gives an example of this structure in his song "Ask about Me:"
Ask about Me
Ask about Me
Our second verb and preposition combination today is “ask for.”
Here, the verb is “ask,” and the preposition is “for.”
You can think of “ask for” as a kind of expression of desire. People who want something “ask for” something. These things could be specific objects, or they could be a specific kind of information.
Let’s listen to an example of “asking for” an object:
The child asked for a treat, but his mother did not give him one.
In the example, the child desires something – in this case, a treat.
And here is an example of a person “asking for” information:
She is asking for directions.
Remember The Lumineers, the rock group you heard at the beginning of this report? Let’s listen to part of their song Slow It Down:
She'll make a fool of you all
Don't ask for cigarettes
She ain't got nothin' left for you
The next time you are watching television, reading books or speaking with an American, try to find examples of the terms “ask about” and “ask for.”
Record what you find, and listen to it often. With time and practice, you will be able to use these two structures with ease.
Let the Everyday Grammar team know if there any story ideas you would like to ask about… and do not hesitate to ask for help.
I'm John Russell.
And I’m Caty Weaver.
John Russell wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
grammar – n. the system and structure of a language
preposition – n. grammar: a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object
gossip – n. reports or talk about other people, often involving details that are not confirmed as true
practice – v. to perform an exercise repeatedly
hesitate – v. to delay or wait before doing something