How to use the word “consult”

The verb “consult” has three different meanings and accordingly behaves in three different ways. It is important to ensure your grammar and sentence structure match the meaning you intend.

1. “Consult” usually means “to seek advice or information”. It is a transitive verb, which means it needs an object (i.e. you have to consult somebody or something).

WRONG
Would the employer be obliged to consult before reducing pay?
RIGHT
Would the employer be obliged to consult the employee representatives before reducing pay?

You can also consult a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or any other written reference.
E.g.: If you don’t know how to spell a word, consult a dictionary.

Always put the person or thing being consulted after the word “consult”:

WRONG
We recommend consulting the transaction with the works council.
RIGHT
We recommend consulting the works council about the transaction.

In sentences like this, consult with is incorrect. Instead use about or for.

You consult somebody about
E.g.: The employer must consult the employee representatives about reducing pay.

You consult something for
E.g.: He consulted the company website for information on internships.

More examples:

WRONG
Please find below our comments regarding consulting with the shareholders the planned merger.
RIGHT
Please find below our comments regarding consulting the shareholders about the planned merger.

WRONG
If TOP Retail consults the transaction with the employee representatives from GoAuto only it may be viewed that it did not follow the consultation procedure properly.
RIGHT
If TOP Retail consults only the employee representatives from GoAuto about the transaction it may be viewed that it did not follow the consultation procedure properly.

In this example the word “only” has also been moved to keep the sense of the sentence.

2. You can only use consult with when “consult” means “discuss something in order to make a decision”. In this case it is an intransitive verb (i.e. it has no object), so you cannot write anything between the words “consult” and “with”:
E.g.: He consulted with his lawyer for 15 minutes before returning to the meeting.

3. “To consult” can also mean “to act as a consultant”. In this case it is also an intransitive verb. It may be followed by “for”:
E.g.: He retired last year, but still consults for his old firm.

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