covered with, by or in?

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covered with, by or in?

Unread postby matthau » 10 Apr 2008, 20:29

Hi folks,

I've been trying to work out a set of rules that could explain the choice of prepositions with 'covered':
covered with / covered by / covered in.

None of the dictionaries that I looked in give any reasonable interpretation.

So I haven't been able to crack this puzzle so far. All I can say is that 'with' is by far the most frequently used one, and 'in' often occurs when cover stuff is undesirable and should be removed, e.g. He was all covered in blood, snow, etc.

Sometimes it seems the three of them are possible in the same context, e.g. The trees were covered with / by / in snow.

I wonder if you could suggest contexts which would accept only one of the options, excluding the others.


Let's have a discussion. The problem seems to be really challenging.
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby jasminade » 12 Apr 2008, 13:48

Hello Matthau

I remember the Cambridge Advanced English book dealing with this subject. I do not have a copy on my but I can start the ball rolling with what I recall by citing that there are five different categories of prepositions.

They are listed as prepositions of place, manner, direction, time and reason.

The category you mention is of manner. In that if asked the question, who or how. you would require a preposition of manner.

Who covered him? He was covered in snow by John.
How was he covered...?

Not a great example, but it is a good way for ccq with the students.
See what cheekily did there? :D
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby matthau » 12 Apr 2008, 21:01

Hi Jasminade,

Thank you very much.
To keep the ball rolling, here are some ideas.

1. In many grammars 'by' is opposed to 'with' as either 'agent' vs. 'instrument', or 'method' vs. 'instrument'.

e.g. The door was opened by the teacher. (agent)
The door was opened with a key. (instrument).
The door was opened by breaking the lock. (method)

However, with 'cover' these concepts do not work:

e.g. His face was covered with freckles. (instrument? :)
The lake was covered with / by ice.

2. It looks 'with', though the most frequently used preposition, has a restriction on expressing, so to say, voluntary protective covering. In that case 'by' is used.

e.g. The warrior's body was covered by a shield. (he is holding a shield to protect himself)
The warrior's body was covered with a shield. (somebody covered the warrior's dead body to pay tribute to him)

Do you think there is something in it?
I love semantics, you can always find something to explore!
matthau
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby jasminade » 27 Apr 2008, 10:16

matthau wrote:Hi Jasminade,

Thank you very much.
To keep the ball rolling, here are some ideas.

1. In many grammars 'by' is opposed to 'with' as either 'agent' vs. 'instrument', or 'method' vs. 'instrument'.

e.g. The door was opened by the teacher. (agent)
The door was opened with a key. (instrument).
The door was opened by breaking the lock. (method)

However, with 'cover' these concepts do not work:

e.g. His face was covered with freckles. (instrument? :)
The lake was covered with / by ice.

2. It looks 'with', though the most frequently used preposition, has a restriction on expressing, so to say, voluntary protective covering. In that case 'by' is used.

e.g. The warrior's body was covered by a shield. (he is holding a shield to protect himself)
The warrior's body was covered with a shield. (somebody covered the warrior's dead body to pay tribute to him)

Do you think there is something in it?
I love semantics, you can always find something to explore!



Hehehe... I would only use the above as a guide to help more advanced students. It is agreed that the correct use of prepositions is a major difficulty for students. As you aptly point out with your examples.

In my reading, I think it was Dryden who came up with the grammar rule that you must not end a sentence with a preposition. But that can get you in all sort of confused mutterings as Winston Churchill pointed out in reply to an editor:

"This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."


So it is really impossible to classify prepositions as your grammar books seem to attempt to do. Just try to use these books as a guide. I remember the joke:

Student of English: What are you looking at?
Grammarian who Ought to Find a Life: You must not end an expression with a preposistion!
Student of English: Okay then, what are you looking at, fool?

:D
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby matthau » 28 Apr 2008, 20:15

Hi Jasminade,
Good to hear from you.

I wonder what Dryden meant by saying so. To observe that rule you'll have to eliminate some very good syntactical patterns from your speech.
e.g. He is easy to deal with.
What are you looking for?

You know, this phrase of Churchill's really hits the nail on the head. By the way, I was explaining the use of relative pronouns in attributive clauses the other day. I wish I had known this excellent piece of ridicule then.

I can't agree that it's impossible to make a detailed description of a preposition. It's very difficult because these language units are extremely abstract and have very complex concepts. But I believe for the most part it's a question of working out the right approach. There are some intersting ideas on this topic in cognitive linguistics.

I side with you that it doesn't pay to be a purist. Here is a little joke:
A knock on the school door.
-Who is it?
-This is I, John Smith. I called you about a teaching job.
-Sorry, sir. No vacancies for grammar teachers. :D
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby luqm80 » 23 May 2008, 12:54

hi there ;

by Each body was covered by a blanket. in was covered in blood. | with The path was now completely covered with thick snow.

these info are from oxford collocations.i hope i brought somthing useful .

thank you
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby systematic » 18 Jun 2008, 17:21

luqm80 comes, IMHO, very close when (s)he mentions collocations as a possible explanation. I'll agree with those who say it doesn't pay to be a purist. One also has to draw a line at a point where the net outcome of research in the very broad discipline of cognitive linguistics has any practical use for the average 'CELTA' level teacher of English to speakers of other languages. The students want to learn to communicate and are probably less concerned with the analysis of paradigms.
I offer any information or advice 'as is' and hope that it has been of help. I am not an admin of this board, and my postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board management.
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby Chopvac » 28 Jun 2008, 08:38

matthau wrote:Hi folks,

I've been trying to work out a set of rules that could explain the choice of prepositions with 'covered':
covered with / covered by / covered in.

So I haven't been able to crack this puzzle so far. All I can say is that 'with' is by far the most frequently used one, and 'in' often occurs when cover stuff is undesirable and should be removed, e.g. He was all covered in blood, snow, etc.


This isn't universally true, but ask yourself if something is coated (with, in) or blocked (by).

Examples:

covered with/in: snow, blood, mud, sand, icing, water, feathers, darkness, leaves, etc.

covered by: wood, blanket, rocks, ice, branches and leaves (different meaning than above), etc.

Also notice that "with/in" involve something surrounding the subject, while "by" contains, protects, or keeps things off of it:

His head was covered by a hat, while the hat was covered in water.

Again, it's not universal but is a simple explanation that's easy to grasp.
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby systematic » 15 Jul 2008, 07:39

systematic wrote:luqm80 comes, IMHO, very close when (s)he mentions collocations* as a possible explanation. I'll agree with those who say it doesn't pay to be a purist. One also has to draw a line at a point where the net outcome of research in the very broad discipline of cognitive linguistics has any practical use for the average 'CELTA' level teacher of English to speakers of other languages. The students want to learn to communicate and are probably less concerned with the analysis of paradigms.

*collocations
collocation |kɒləˌkeɪʃ(ə)n|
noun
1 Linguistics the habitual juxtaposition of a particular word with another word or words with a frequency greater than chance : the words have a similar range of collocation.
• a pair or group of words that are juxtaposed in such a way : “strong coffee” and “heavy drinker” are typical English collocations.
2 the action of placing things side by side or in position : the collocation of the two pieces.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin collocatio(n-), from collocare ‘place together’ (see collocate ).
I offer any information or advice 'as is' and hope that it has been of help. I am not an admin of this board, and my postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board management.
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Re: covered with, by or in?

Unread postby matthau » 01 Aug 2009, 09:09

Sorry for the delayed reply. I'd like to thank all the posters on this thread for their contributions. I agree that the problem is too complex to be discussed even in a class of advanced students, however to me as a non-native ESl teacher it looks quite challenging and worthwhile.
Another interesting thing on "covered + prep".
Dogs are covered with hair.
Cats are covered with fur.

How shall we define that type of cover? Inseparable? With such a type of cover only 'with' is possible.

I invite everybody to continue this discussion.
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