The word answer is often joined by the preposition to, usually connecting it to a noun (something that requires answering). However, answer can be both a verb and a noun, and they are naturally used differently when forming sentences. So, what are some simple guidelines for fitting answer into a sentence, with or without to?
When we use the verb to answer, is usually followed by an object – who or what an answer is being addressed to. For example:
- I answered the question.
- He is not answering my phone calls.
Otherwise, to answer is also often followed by a prepositional phrase, to link an indirect object that tells us what the answer is/was.
- The people answered with a shout.
- She answered by throwing a book at me.
When we use answer as a noun, it is often connected to another noun using the preposition to. This is because the answer belongs to a problem or other issue, resolving it. For example:
- The answer to a question.
- The answer to a problem.
- The answer to his prayers.
- The answer to the declaration.
However, some confusion arises because there is also a phrasal verb, answer to, which means to take orders from, obey or provide an explanation to. Answer to should always be followed by an object – usually someone/something in a position of authority.
- The knights answer directly to the king.
- You will answer to the police for this crime.
Answer vs answer to Exercise
Can you fill in the gaps in these sentences with either answer or answer to, using the guidelines above?
- The motorcycle gang _______ no one.
- Do you know the _______ question 23?
- He always _______ all the quiz questions correctly.
- I will _______ your email tomorrow.
- She will provide an _______ your request as soon as possible.
- The motorcycle gang answers to no one.
- Do you know the answer to question 23?
- He always answers all the quiz questions correctly.
- I will answer your email tomorrow.
- She will provide an answer to your request as soon as possible.