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).

Would the employer be obliged to consult before reducing pay?
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”:

We recommend consulting the transaction with the works council.
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:

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

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.
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.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to How to use the word “consult”

  1. Dr W. Lee says:

    Good advice, crisp.

  2. fitnessadore says:

    Good information was given by you. Thank you very much, gonna bookmark this site.

  3. Brooke says:

    What about when “consult” is used as a noun? It’s even pronounced differently, with the emphasis on the first syllable as opposed to the second. E.G.: “We have a consult with Ms McGillicuddy at noon.”

  4. blogg2bm says:

    Thank you, it is very helpful

  5. Sam says:

    Thank you. This was very helpful.
    A lot of people seem to use “to consult” in the third meaning, but then add an object (We consulted the students < We gave the students advice), which of course makes things really confusing.

  6. Tej B.K says:

    Really very very beautiful concept. I understood it clearly .Thanks for helping me……

  7. Paul says:

    Am I then correct in saying ‘come in for a consult today’ is bad English?

  8. Whether it’s bad English is a matter of opinion. I personally don’t like it, and would recommend “consultation”, especially in formal communication. Perhaps it’s OK as spoken language, but as written language, it may be considered bad English – it depends on the audience.

  9. May says:

    Hi ;
    Is this sentence correct ?

    The final draft of the presentation may be consulted as a memory aid ?

    please advice

    • Yes, I believe it is correct. The sentence is in the passive voice, but may be converted into the active voice as follows: “You may consult the final draft of the presentation as a memory aid.” So it follows the rule given in the post about consulting a dictionary, encyclopedia or other written reference.
      Careful how you use the word “advice”. “Advise” is the verb; “advice” is the noun. So we write “Please advise” 🙂

  10. Thomas Dahl says:

    Can you write “Here to consult you!” ? Should it not be “Here to consult with you”?

    This is the context that “I” am here to offer advice. “I am here to consult you”

    • Hi Thomas,
      I wouldn’t use “consult” like that. To my mind it is incorrect, and it is certainly misleading, as it sounds like you are going to consult them, not the other way round. I suggest “Here to advise you” or “Here for you to consult” – as that seems to be what you mean.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s