“Shout at” and “shout to”: prepositions can change meaning
Let’s look at how using a different preposition changes the meaning of some verbs.
Our example is the verb shout.
Definition of shout
Shout means ‘raise your voice – usually as much as possible’.
There’s one meaning, but we have two main reasons for shouting:
- to make ourselves heard
- to show strong emotion.
Unfortunately, with shout in English it’s not always clear what the reason was. That’s why adding a preposition can be useful.
Why did he shout?
He shouted. OK, but was he angry or did he simply want to be heard?
Add a preposition – say either shout at or shout to – and the meaning becomes clear.
This suggests that we’re angry.
- The receptionist decided to leave because the boss often shouted at her.
- Please don’t shout at me: calm down and speak normally.
When we shout to someone, we want them to hear us. They might be on the other side of the street, or a distance from us in a noisy place.
- She shouted to me from the upstairs window.
- I shouted to them across the busy road, but they didn’t hear me.
Hopefully those examples show the difference clearly.
What about this guy: do you think he’s shouting to someone or at someone?
Throw to and throw at
Throw to and throw at follow the same pattern as shout to and shout at:
- My teammate threw the ball to me, but I dropped it.
- Protestors threw eggs at the President and his colleagues.
There’s nothing wrong with using shout without a preposition. Just remember that the meaning may not always be clear.