Disappointed + Preposition
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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