Developing the confidence to match ‘confident’ with the right preposition


A FOLLOWER of mine on Facebook, Marianne Freya Gutib, recently asked me these very interesting grammar questions:


1. When do we use “confident in” and “confident of”? What is denoted by these words?

2. Which pronoun should be used in this sentence and why so: “The
winners of the contests were (they, them)”?

My reply to Marianne:

Regarding Question #1, we match the adjective “confident” with the preposition “in” to indicate trust in someone or something, as in these examples: “We are confident in his ability to manage this company despite his young age.” “The principal is fully confident in her assistant’s competence to run the school in her absence.” “I am confident in the knowledge that my superior has full trust in me.” “Filipinos remain confident in the safety of their banking system despite the laundering of millions of dollars of stolen foreign funds in a local bank.”

On the other hand, we can match the adjective “confident” with “of” to express our trust or certainty about a particular fact or information, as in these examples: “I am confident of her chances of getting nominated for CEO.” “The ambitious candidate was confident of winning but lost to an aggressive, down-to-earth upstart.” “He remains confident of getting his law degree despite the inadequacy of his English.”

The adjective “confident” may actually be followed by any of several other prepositions depending on the intended sense. There may be overlapping in sense for particular preposition choices, but the contexts for their usage are generally not interchangeable. Take a look at the following sentences where “confident” is followed by the prepositions “about,” “with,” “at,” and “for”:

1. In the sense of “regarding”: “We are confident about our investment in solar power.”

2. In the sense of “over” or “about”: “They are confident with their performance in the audition.”

3. In the sense of “doing”: “She never learned to be confident at cashiering.”

4. In the sense of “ascendancy over”: “The experience made him feel more confident for whatever challenges may come.”

Now to Question #2: Which pronoun should be used in this sentence and why so: “The winners of the contests were (they, them)”?

It may come as a surprise to not a few of us, but the correct usage isn’t “them” but “they”: “The winners of the contests were they.” Recall that for subject complements, which are meant to provide more information about the subject of the sentence, the rule is to use the subjective form rather than the objective form of pronouns.

A telltale sign of a subject complement is that the information it provides is preceded by a form of the linking verb “be,” using the following sentence structure: Subject + linking verb + subject pronoun, as in “The chosen one is he.” It oftentimes seems or sounds better to use “him” in such cases, as in “The chosen one is him,” but “him” as an object pronoun is grammatically incorrect.


I couldn’t help but make this quick take on this almost inconspicuous grammar blooper in a recent news story: “According to government statistics, a woman in India is raped, on average, every 22 minutes.”

Do your math, but by that reckoning, an Indian woman gets raped 65.45 times daily, or a whopping 1,963.5 times monthly. That’s incredibly, horribly too much for any woman to bear whether in India or anywhere
else in the world.

Now see the difference when we use the three-letter article “one” instead of the one-letter article “a” for the word “woman” in that sentence:
“According to government statistics, one woman in India is raped, on average, every 22 minutes.”

This surely is a cautionary tale for making sure that everyone, statistician or journalist or whatnot, to really learn how to use the correct article every time.

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