You’ve probably heard several collocations about talking — we always “talk about” a subject or “bring up” a topic. But what about “discuss”? Is there a specific preposition that follows this word, and is it correct to say “discuss about”?
No, it isn’t correct to say “discuss about.” Though the phrase “discuss about” might sound a lot like “talk about” or “speak about,” we don’t use the preposition “about” with the verb “to discuss” because it is a transitive verb that requires a direct object.
Here, we’ll take a look at the correct way to use the transitive verb “discuss,” and we’ll dive into the many different ways to use “about” correctly, too.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Discuss About”?
It is not correct to say “discuss about” because “discuss” is a transitive verb, which we will discuss next. However, similar phrases that are grammatically correct would include “talk about,” “speak about,” or simply “discuss.”
What Does Saying Discuss About Mean?
While the intent of someone who says “discuss about” is to point out a topic of discussion, saying “discuss about” ultimately means that you do not understand it is strictly a transitive verb.
When Can You Use “Discuss About”?
Again, we cannot use the expression “discuss about” as it is not proper English grammar. The more appropriate choices would be “talk about ___,” “speak about ___,” or “discuss ___. ”
The verb “discuss” is a transitive verb, which means that the direct object of “discuss” should come right after the verb. So, there shouldn’t be the preposition “about” after “discuss.”
The formula for a sentence with “discuss” as the main verb looks like this: subject + to discuss + direct object.
In What Context Can You Use “Discuss About”?
You can only use the phrase “discuss about” when discussing what is inappropriate in English grammar. Instead, you would simply use “discuss” and then mention what someone is discussing.
In this context, the direct object of each sentence receives the action of the verb and is the topic that you are talking about. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples:
- They gathered to discuss fundraising strategies.
- After lunch, we will discuss the plan for the weekend.
In each case, the object right after the verb “to discuss” explains the topic that you are discussing or talking about.
However, even though “discuss” couples with the topic of a discussion or conversation, it doesn’t take the preposition “about.” This is a special rule for verbs like “discuss” that are transitive.
Can You Say “Today We Will Discuss About”?
No. Because you’re using the verb form “to discuss,” you can’t use the preposition “about.” However, you can use the noun form and say, “Today we will have a discussion about ___.”
Similar to the above examples, you cannot say, “Today we will discuss about.” Again, you cannot use the verb form “discuss” directly followed by the preposition “about.”
Instead, you can discuss something, have a discussion about something, or talk about something. Therefore, proper usages of the phrase, “Today we will discuss” include:
- Today we will discuss our summer vacation.
- Today we will discuss how to make a souffle.
- Today we will discuss photosynthesis.
Can You Say “Discuss With You About”?
No. “Discuss with you about” is also not correct. In this case, the preferred phrasing would be, “Discuss ___ with you.” In some cases, the direct object would come between the verb and the prepositional phrase, or else directly following the word “you,” as in “I want to discuss with you your grades.”
Examples of “discuss with you” in a sentence:
- I would like to discuss a matter with you.
- Let’s discuss your recent decision to take your sister for ice cream with you.
- I want to discuss our upcoming vacation with you.
When Not to Use “Discuss About”
For all of the reasons we’ve listed above, you should never use the phrase “discuss about,” as it is not grammatically correct.
Using “Discuss About” in a Full Sentence
Because “discuss about” is not grammatically correct, there is no right or good way to use it in a complete sentence.
In contrast, if you want to use a different verb such as “speak” or “talk,” you’ll need to add the preposition “about,” meaning “concerning,” because these are not transitive verbs. Check out these examples:
- They gathered to speak about fundraising strategies.
- After lunch, we will talk about the plan for the weekend.
In these examples, what follows the verb is the object of the preposition rather than the direct object. If, instead, a direct object follows after the verb “to discuss” — i.e., discussing football or discussing employment options — there should be no preposition “about” between.
Is It a Discussion “On” or “About”?
Interestingly, while you can’t use the preposition “about” right after the verb “to discuss,” you can use both the preposition “about” and the preposition “on” after the noun form of the word “discussion.”
So, it is appropriate to say, “They are having a discussion on astrophysics.” It is also appropriate to say, “They are having a discussion about parenting techniques.”
Similarly, you can say, “They were having a discussion on what to have for dinner” and “They were having a discussion about the President’s latest address.” However, these prepositions can only come right after the noun form, “discussion.”
Can You Say “Discuss On”?
No. Just as you cannot correctly say, “discuss about,” you also cannot say, “discuss on.” Instead, the correct usage would be “discuss [topic],” without a preposition.
“To Talk” vs. “to Discuss”
The verbs “to talk” and “to discuss” have similar meanings, but they have different grammatical functions. Let’s take a look at how we can use these two verbs properly every single time!
The verb “to talk” means “to say words aloud or to speak to someone for the purpose of sharing news/information, ideas, or feelings” (source). You can talk about something, such as your feelings or a particular subject.
The verb “to discuss” has a very similar definition. It means “to give information, ideas, opinions, etc., about (something) in writing or speech” (source). You may discuss options for moving to a new city, or you might talk about moving to a new city: these two options describe the same situation.
To discuss often suggests that another party is involved in the conversation, and, in many cases, it also implies the conversation is happening to decide something (source).
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples to really clear things up:
- Mary is talking about the bestselling novel that she read on vacation.
- Mary is discussing the bestselling novel that she read on vacation.
These two sentences may appear to have exactly the same meaning, but there are some subtle differences.
If Mary is talking about the fabulous new book she just finished reading, there may be an implication that she’s reporting on the book or filling in a friend on all the juicy details of the novel.
But if Mary is discussing the book with her friend, there’s an implication that the friend is involved in the conversation. It sounds like her friend has also read the novel, and they’re comparing their ideas about the book.
That’s the biggest connotation difference between “to discuss” and “to talk” about something.
When “To Talk” Needs the Preposition “About”
“To talk” needs the preposition “about” when what follows the verb is the topic someone is addressing — the object of the preposition — in the conversation.
Review these examples for reference. Can you provide some proper examples of your own?
|Malisa called Javi to talk about the upcoming school dance.||Malisa called Javi to talk the upcoming school dance.|
|The employees gathered in the breakroom to talk about their working conditions.||The employees gathered in the breakroom to talk their working conditions.|
In each case, “talk” needs “about” to link the verb with the topic. This is in direct contrast to “discuss,” which requires the topic as the direct object to immediately follow the verb.
Correct usage could also be talking about a subject, i.e., talking about football or talking about job prospects, in which case, the words “talk”’ and ‘”talking” do require the word “about.” Stay tuned for more on that subject.
For more tips on how to clearly communicate while you discuss hot topics or talk about neat subjects, check out our article “Is It Correct to Say, ‘According to Me’?”
More About “About”
There are several different ways to use the word “about”: we can use it as a preposition, adverb, or adjective. What form the word takes depends on how we use it.
For example, if the word “about” indicates the topic of a thought, speech, or discussion, then it is a preposition. It is also a preposition if it indicates movement to or around a location.
If it is modifying a verb or another adverb, “about” can be an adverb. Or, it can be an adjective if it reveals something about a noun or pronoun.
“About” often refers to the state of a noun or an indication of movement or subject. It can also intimate approximations, such as approximate location, time, or quantity.
When you use it as a preposition, “about” means: “on the subject of” or “connected to.” When you use “about” as an adverb, it is often when speaking of approximate time, number, or quantity (source).
For example, you can say, “It is about four o’clock,” meaning the time is approximately or nearly four o’clock.
Or you can say, “There are about 15 cookies left in the jar,” which suggests an approximate number or quantity of cookies waiting for someone to eat.
Using “About” in Different Contexts
It can be difficult to decipher when to use the term “about” properly in a sentence, particularly without everyday, practical context. Here are some examples of the term “about” as an adverb, preposition, and adjective.
- As an adverb suggesting reasonably close to, almost, or on the verge of:
Dan and Marco are just about to finish their final physics exam.
- As an adverb indicating directionality:
They ran about the large park for hours, looking for the missing dog.
- As a preposition, referring to near, on every side, or at the command of something:
The breeze blew, scattering the cherry blossom petals about all sides of the pond.
- As a preposition suggesting engaged in, concerning, or in various parts of:
They were talking about last night’s Yankees games when Maria entered the room.
- As an adjective referring to moving from place to place:
They heard the children gathered about the entrance and knew the bell would soon ring.
Reading simple texts and paying careful attention to the preposition “about” will help strengthen your familiarity and fluency. Taking conversations or short blocks of text and reading them aloud will also help attune your ear to its proper usage and context.
One of the most common uses of “about” is in a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase contains a preposition, its object, and any words that modify that object. Most times, the phrase modifies a verb or a noun, but it can also modify adjectives or adverbs.
Additional common prepositions include: “to,” “of,” “about,” “at,” “for,” “in,” “over,” and “with.”
Example with a noun: I like to decorate my carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Example with a verb: The puppy had trouble keeping up with the older dog.
See the section above for additional examples using “about” as a prepositional phrase.
For more on prepositions and prepositional phrases, check out our article “‘In Accordance With’ or ‘In Accordance To’: Which Is Correct?“
Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs
A transitive verb makes sense only when there is an object upon which it can exert an action. However, an intransitive verb makes sense without an object. Some verbs can function transitively in some situations and intransitively in others (source).
- She loves horse racing.
- Please talk about last night’s football game.
Without horse racing as the object of the verb, this sentence leaves too many unanswered questions. Similarly, without the object, “please talk” raises questions — talk about what? Talk to whom?
- The students arrived.
- Charlie laughed.
The first example is a complete sentence on its own. Adding additional information, such as “The students arrived about 7:00 p.m. last night,” gives the listener/reader more detail. In the second example, Charlie can laugh without the reader/listener needing more information.
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Neither of these sentences requires an object immediately following the verb to be a complete sentence.
To discuss, to talk, and to speak are all similar verbs that express the action of sharing information with another person or people. However, they each interact with the word “about” differently: “to talk” and “to speak” are intransitive verbs, while “to discuss” is a transitive verb.
The usage also changes based on the form of the word: you can “have a discussion about something” when you use the noun form, but you can’t “discuss about something” when you use the verb form.
On the other hand, you can always “talk about something” or “speak about something” since these are intransitive verbs that don’t require the direct object directly after the verb.
With practice, you’ll be able to use the verbs “to discuss,” “to talk,” and “to speak”correctly every time. Plus, you’ll be able to use their noun forms correctly too. And with a bit more practice and patience, you’ll even be able to master that tricky preposition “about”!