Disappointed + Preposition

By Maeve Maddox

A reader asks:

Could you write about which preposition should be used after “disappointed” (e.g., in, at, with, by…)? Please explain the instances to use them correctly.

I don’t think it’s possible to lay down a hard and fast rule about which preposition should follow disappointed, but I’ve gathered some headlines and quotations from the Web that illustrate what seems to me to be the most common usage.

His military dad was disappointed in him.

My parents are disappointed in me.

Disappointment is an emotion. The preposition that follows disappointed hints at the intensity of the emotion involved.

Disappointed in” suggests that a betrayal has taken place. The source of the disappointment is usually a loved and trusted person whose actions are seen by another as a betrayal. The trusted person’s very character is in question. This kind of disappointment shakes a relationship.

In is also used when trust has been placed in an entity or institution from which something else was expected:

New Hope parents, students disappointed in court’s decision
Drivers in Liberia are expressing frustration and disappointment in the Federation of Road Transport Union (FRTUL) for its alleged failure to meet their needs.

Disappointed by” lacks the sense of betrayal conveyed by “disappointed in”; with by the emotion seems to be more one of surprise:

Kim Simplis Barrow says she’s disappointed by church’s position

Disappointed with” seems to have the broadest application. We’re disappointed with products or with how things are done:

”I am deeply disappointed with how WorkSafe conducted this investigation,” Clark told reporters.

iPhone users are disappointed with the iOS 7.1 software update that’s draining their batteries

Julien Disappointed With Bruins’ Effort In Winnipeg

Chase disappointed with outcome of 2014 Legislative sessions

Preposition use is changing rapidly. For example, nonstandard “excited for” is challenging standard “excited about” in the speech of younger speakers. If the established uses of “disappointed in” and “disappointed by” are displaced, it will be by “disappointed with,” as in this comment by Drake Bennett:

Being disappointed with a person feels different from being disappointed with an outcome, and demands a different response.

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14 Responses to “Disappointed + Preposition”

  • venqax

    Very interesting all this stuff about prepositions. It’s something that I never really noticed as problem until this site made me aware of it, outside of my longstanding aversion to the ubiquitousness of “on” for anything, especially for “about”, in lazy speech. “A report on ham”, “information on where to go”, “What are we doing on the grammar problem?”.
    In this case though, it does seem that many prepositions do work with disappointed. NOT, however, “disappointed on”, nor “disappointed of”. I haven’t consulted any sources, but *in*, *by*, and *with* seem to work okay, and even *at* sounds passable to me. Along similar lines to the article, I am really vexed by the recent trend of saying, “on accident” rather than the usual “by accident”. Maybe the analogy is to “on purpose” but to a native speaker such analogies should be ridiculous and inexcusable. When have analogies applied to English, anyway? “On accident” sounds particularly sophomoric, “I hurted myself on accident” sounds congruent.

  • D.A.W.

    “Disappointed OVER”. Examples
    1). I am disappointed over the recent bullying of the country of Ukraine by Russia.
    2). The twins were disappointed over the failure of Santa Claus to appear on Christmas Eve. They had been taught to expect him every year, despite the impossibility of this.
    3). Lots of Americans are disappointed over the Republicans’ refusal to give the President any support at all.
    4). I am overwhelmed with disappointment over man’s inhumanity to man, including rampant bullying of people in reality and in writing.

    Some of these might not be the best way of stating things, but I am disappointed by the failure to at least mention “over”.

    Some other possibilities, also not always preferable, included “disappointed about”, “disappointed concerning”, and “disappointed upon”.

    “Many perople cannot keep it straight about the words ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’. I am disappointed concerning that.”
    “The Oilers have failed to make it to the Super Bowl once again. I am disappointed about that.” Also, why is it that people write “Superbowl” when the real phrase is “Super Bowl”? Disappointing, disappointing!
    D.A.W.

  • D.A.W.

    Some people say that Jefferson and Washington would be disappointed over how things have worked out in the United States, but Franklin would be delighted.

    I am certain that Franklin would be delighted by such advances as automobiles, airplanes, computers, electric power, the telephone, and especially the Internet. Franklin was a pioneer in electricity, and he was also very big in the dissemination of information through newspapers, pamphlets, the Post Office, and libraries. Surely, he would have been very pleased with the application of electricity to telecommunications.

    (By the way, there is a little-known electrical unit called the franklin. It is otherwise known as the “statcoulomb”, but this is one that is not used by electrical engineers and technologists.
    D.A.W.

  • Kim O’Hare

    Love your daily posts. The recent “disappointed + preposition” post prompts me to ask about a similar issue. For many years journalists wrote “John Doe is charged in connection with the robbery.” I have notice more recently they have switched to “in connection to”, which to my ear sounds incorrect.
    I would argue that if one drops “in connection” from the sentence “charged with” is correct as opposed to “charged to.”

    Thanks so much.
    Kim

  • venqax

    Disappointed over might be all right, technically anyway, but it is simply not necessary. In every example *over* can be better replaced by *by*. As far as disappointed concerning, then concerning is just being used as a synonym for about. If about is okay, then so are synonyms. I think the idea of what prepositions a verb takes relates to a few “basic” prepositions, not every possible mutation of them. E.g., to, of, at, by, for, about. As for disappointed upon, I don’t know what you really mean. It’s usually used as a synonym for *when* which is a conjunction, not a preposition; or for *on* which can’t be used with disappointed.

  • D.A.W.

    Answering the puzzlement expressed above:
    “The architect was disappointed upon the sudden collapse of his building during a storm.”
    “The teacher was disappointed upon receiving the scores of his high school students on the SAT.”

    The title “Disappointed + Preposition” implies the combination with any conceivable preposition. Isn’t that obvious? Otherwise, the title should be something like “Disappointed + Selected Prepositions”.
    I believe that titles should be succinct and ACCURATE.
    There is no reason for “Oh, I had my fingers crossed when I said that.”
    D.A.W.

  • venqax

    When speaking or writing about anything a certain level of assumption is necessary and normal. It is not accurate, but ridiculous, to think someone is going to enumerate every single preposition in English when addressing a question like this. The title is appropriately “Disappointed + Preposition”, or “…Prepositions”. Not, “Disappointed + Every Conceivable Preposition There Is, Was, Might Be, Could’ve Been, Has A High School Diploma, And is Gainfully Employed Part or Full-time.”

    The examples actually illustrate the point fairly well:

    “The teacher was disappointed upon receiving the scores of his high school students on the SAT.”

    In this case, *when* substitutes for upon and it’s not a preposition: “The teacher was disappointed when receiving…” I’m not saying the above is not grammatically “passable” in a marginal way, but it is not good.

    “The architect was disappointed upon the sudden collapse of his building during a storm.”

    That’s just plain bad. Upon doesn’t work there, because upon doesn’t follow disappointed any better than *on* does. “I was disappointed on my building’s collapse?” English help, please.

    “The architect was disappointed by the sudden collapse of his building during a storm.” Or using *when*: “The architect was disappointed when his building suddenly collapsed during a storm.”
    Either are much better. The conclusion must be that *upon* does not follow disappointed. It is at best clumsy.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Venqax, you are the one who is ridiculous.
    It is obvious that you have never studied ANYTHING that takes close attention to details and completeness, such as engineering, mathematics, medicine, dentistry, architecture, microbiology, accounting, computer programming (other than the simple stuff), etc. — and in addition, you wish to ADVERTISE the fact.

    You never concede that there are other people who have expended the effort to do so, and to learn more than you have.
    You think that you level of thinking (“genius”) is the ideal on this planet, and that you have NO NEED to make an effort to learn more and to improve yourself. Shame on you!

    On the other hand, I was taught something important long ago: “Reach for the stars. You might not ever reach them, but you will go a long way.
    Doubtless, that sounds like snake venom to you.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    The mother of the bride was disappointed upon the marriage of her daughter because she had married an argumentative lout like venqax.
    Yes, she was so disappointed upon that very moment that she nearly upchucked right there in the chapel.

    You have a lot to learn, venqax, but you never will. We have conceded that fact.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “The architect was disappointed upon the sudden collapse of his building during a storm.”
    Yes, the architect was so disappointed at that VERY INSTANT – because he was watching – that he upchucked on the sidewalk, then and there.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    So, “upon” expresses the very immediacy of the happening.

    Venqax, you have a serious problem in not being able to appreciate the use of precise words to express meanings such as urgency, slowness, or run-of-the-mill. Then your problem is compounded by complaining about the people who do.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Upon the receipt of the news of the death of his mother, George collapsed to his knees and wept profusely. “Upon” expresses the immediacy of is reaction, unlike some other prepositions that allow for George’s thinking about it for a while before he reacted.
    D.A.W.

  • v

    Oh Dale, Dale, Dale! Mais non:

    “The mother of the bride was disappointed BY the marriage of her daughter because she had married an argumentative lout like venqax.
    Yes, she was so disappointed AT that very moment that she nearly upchucked right there in the chapel.”

    You are abusing the word *upon* because you think it’s fancy-shmancy and smarty-pantsy.

    And you may be misusing *upchuck* as well. I’m not sure what Fowler or Partridge say but it could well be, maybe, that in formal and proper English upchuck is a noun in which case, “She nearly chucked up” would be the proper verb form.

    Language is not engineering, DAW. Most of the engineers I know are very– though somewhat oddly– smart people who also don’t speak or write particularly well. I sometimes help them with that. Like now, kind of.

  • venqax

    Oh Dale, Dale, Dale! Mais non:

    “The mother of the bride was disappointed BY the marriage of her daughter because she had married an argumentative lout like venqax.
    Yes, she was so disappointed AT that very moment that she nearly upchucked right there in the chapel.”

    You are abusing the word *upon* because you think it’s fancy-shmancy and smarty-pantsy.

    And you may be misusing *upchuck* as well. I’m not sure what Fowler or Partridge say but it could well be, maybe, that in formal and proper English upchuck is a noun in which case, “She nearly chucked up,” would be the proper verb form.

    Language is not engineering, DAW. Most of the engineers I know are very– though somewhat oddly– smart people who also don’t speak or write particularly well. I sometimes help them with that. Like now, kind of.

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