More Of



Earlier this month we observed some of the ways that little of can bring big trouble to students of English. Unfortunately, we aren’t done yet.

We previously discussed certain sentences in which the verb is derived not from the subject, but from the object of the preposition of. Here’s an example: She is one of those people who love to travel. Not loves to travel. The verb is determined by people, not by one.

Similarly, with many words that indicate portions—some, most, all, etc.—we are guided by the object of of. If the noun after of is singular, we use a singular verb: Some of the pie is left. If it’s plural, we use a plural verb: Some of the books are gone.

With collective nouns such as crowd or family, the speaker or writer has leeway since such words, though singular in form, denote more than one person or thing. Therefore, Most of my family is here and Most of my family are here are both grammatical sentences.

Other areas of concern:

• Off of  Drop of. Off of is not a valid phrasal preposition. In sentences like Keep off of the grass or You ought to come off of your high horse, the of adds nothing.

• Outside of  We stood outside of the building. Make it outside the building. In sentences indicating location, “of is superfluous with outside,” says Roy H. Copperud. His fellow English scholar Theodore M. Bernstein calls outside of “a substandard casualism.” With sentences where outside of is not literal, such as Outside of you, I have no one, there are better alternatives available, including except for, other than, besides, apart from, and aside from.

• All of  When a pronoun is involved, the of is essential, as in phrases like all of it and all of us. When a possessive noun is preceded by a or an, or has no modifier, again the of is required: all of a book’s wisdom, all of history’s lessons. But when a noun is preceded by an adjective or by the, it’s leaner and cleaner to drop the of in all of: all my books, all the lessons of history.

• Out of  The of is necessary; only bumpkins say Get out my house. Two notable exceptions: door and window—no of is needed in We hurried out the door or I stared out the window.

Couple of  The of stays. This includes phrases such as a couple of thingsa couple of hundred things. “Omitting the of is slipshod,” says Bryan A. Garner in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. “Using couple not as a noun but as an adjective is poor usage.”

That’s enough of for a while. Amazing the confusion that one pint-size preposition can cause.

Pop Quiz

Fix any problems with of that you come across.

1. One of those trees that’s been around for over a century is standing just outside of the restaurant.

2. It’s a little place right outside of San Rafael, just off of Route 101.

3. He threw all of himself into making all Bonnie’s family comfortable.

4. I was looking out of the window as a couple dozen people rushed out the burning building.


Pop Quiz Answers

1. One of those trees that have been around for over a century is standing just outside the restaurant.

2. It’s a little place right outside San Rafael, just off Route 101.

3. He threw all of himself into making all of Bonnie’s family comfortable.

4. I was looking out the window as a couple of dozen people rushed out of the burning building.

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at 3:49 pm

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11 Comments on More Of

11 responses to “More Of

  1. Brandy K. says:

    These e-newsletters are so great-thank you! I especially enjoy learning about the prepositions and other grammar that is often confused!

  2. Fred B. says:

    Such simple little things and yet so tricky. Is there general agreement on all of these, or can we find dissenters amongst the grammarians?

    I hope my use of “all of” is correct.

  3. Pete M. says:

    Thanks as always for your careful readings.

    But here’s my quibble re “Here’s an example: She is one of those people who love to travel. Not loves to travel. The verb is determined by people, not by one“:

    It’s not such a great example, as it could be seen both ways: “Some travelers always feel motion sickness, but it doesn’t stop her because she is one of those people who
    loves
    to travel
    .” (Not terrific writing, but you get the point.)

    • First, we must disagree and say our example was just right for the point we were making.

      And no, sorry, but it ultimately can’t be “seen both ways.” In your counter-example, by the way, the verb would still be love.

      Ask yourself: Who are those people referred to in your sentence? Why didn’t you simply say She is a person who loves to travel? The answer is obviously that you wanted to acknowledge a group of other people, i.e., those people, but who are they? Look closely and you’ll have to admit that they are people joined together by their love of traveling: those people = people who all love to travel. Otherwise, who else could those people be?

      So the only way loves could be correct would be if you wrote, She is one of those people who love to travel who loves to travel. Do you really want to write that?

      You are absolutely correct in your opening sentence that this was a grammar tip that needed to be read very carefully.

  4. A. MacLean says:

    The following is on your site:
    The word there’s, a contraction of there is, leads to bad habits in informal sentences like There’s a lot of people here today, because it’s easier to say “there’s” than “there are.” Take care never to use there’s with a plural subject.

    “There’s a lot of people here today” is correct, because the subject is “lot”—not “people.” This is a very common mistake.

    I hope you will fix this because many people trust your site. The Internet really needs more helpful, correct information.

    • Please see paragraph three dealing with portion words, such as a lot. “People,” as the object of “of,” determines the singularity or plurality of the portion word subject “a lot,” and in this case requires that the verb be “are.”

      • Tanya says:

        Wouldn’t it be “There is a lot of people here today” because you are talking about the singular lot. The ‘of’ is after “there is.” I would think “A lot of people are here today” would be a correct use of the word ‘are’.

        • The phrase “a lot” indicates a portion, therefore, we are guided by the object of of. Since people is plural, use the plural verb are.
          There are a lot of people here today.
          A lot of people are here today.

  5. ann says:

    keep off is a 2-word verb, or a phrasal verb
    keep off of the grass is perfectly acceptable usage

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