Apparently, my blog has recently turned into a diary where I’ve been recording and sharing some of my corpora-related observations.

Here’s another anecdote in the series of posts: Yesterday, in class, we dealt with adjectives of feeling and emotions and the prepositions they take, such as angry with, depressed about, proud of, etcetera. As you know, some adjectives are quite tricky since they can take more than one preposition while the meaning stays roughly the same. One of the notorious ‘troublemakers’ is, for example, the word disappointed. 


I mentioned to my class that this adjective is usually followed by with, by or in. One of my students curiously searched the internet to finally confirm my conclusion. He came up with this page, which explains the slight shifts in meaning when different prepositions are used.


Disappointed by usually indicates that somebody has done something specific to cause you to be disappointed.

Disappointed with implies that the cause of the disappointment was something basic about the nature or attributes of the thing.

Disappointed in usually indicates a deeper level of disappointment with the nature of somebody or something, or repeated problems with them, and often indicates that the speaker has lost faith in someone’s ability to do what’s expected of them.

Although the author did his/her best to help the puzzled learner, it’s still a bit complicated, at least for a B1/B2 learner of English. So I’ve tried to figure it out for myself by looking at sets of concordance lines in BNC. Here are the most frequent collocates of the phrase disappointed + by/with/in (from the perspective of the MI index):

1) One can be disappointed by (the) lack of sth., failure, response, elections, results, decision 

2) One can be disappointed with results, players, performance, result, (the) lack of sth., decision, way

3) One can be disappointed in one’s expectation, love, (not) having …, me, you, him, her …

A closer scrutiny of the concordance lines prompts the following conclusion:

  • No1 > some external factor/situation caused my feelings of disappointment.
  • No2 > I’m not happy with the quality/state of something. Note: It seems that no1 and no2 can be used interchangeably with certain collocates with the meanings remaining very close.
  • No3 > a way to express disillusion or reproach.



About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for almost 25 years and I still love my job. You can find out more about my passion here on my blog.
This entry was posted in Corpora, Grammar, Linguistic issues, Technology, Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

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