defend from vs. defend against/from

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Cyrus the Great, Jul 24, 2014.

  1. Cyrus the Great Registered Senior Member

    I want to defend society and its inhabitants from all ideologies, science included.

    Would you tell me what the preposition from means here?

    Although I have seen and known the preposition of might mean against, in fact, my profs. has just told me :

    "the preposition from in this sentence never ever means against, it means just of".

    Do you know why?

    Because if you want to put the preposition of, then you must put a noun of place after the word inhabitants! for example:

    Inhabitants of India not inhabitants from India

    And, as there is not any place, so we have to put the preposition from instead of of.

    And, originally why did not the writer write the word its members instead of inhabitants? I think they could but they avoid it. Consecuently, from does not mean against, does it?
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It means "against." It would have been equally correct to write "against all ideologies."

    Both "of" and "from" are general-purpose prepositions whose meaning in many cases must be inferred from context.

    He's wrong. Do not trust this guy. He doesn't know as much about English as he claims to.

    In this sentence, the preposition "from" does, indeed, mean exactly "against." If you build a fence around your garden to protect it from deer, you are protecting it against deer.

    Sure, but you can also say "India's inhabitants." Or even "Indian inhabitants"--this is an awkward construction and we would never use it, but if someone says or writes it, we will understand it.

    Either this man does not understand the sentence, or he does not understand English grammar.

    There most definitely is a place: society! The phrase "society and its inhabitants" means "society and the inhabitants of society." The pronoun "its" is being used reflexively to refer back to "society."

    I don't believe that this sentence was written by a native speaker of English. None of the native speakers of the four major dialects of English (American/Canadian, British, Indian and Australia/New Zealand) would say "society and its inhabitants." Every one of us would, indeed, say "society and its members."

    The word "society" does not always refer to a geographical location. It can be an honorary society such as Phi Beta Kappa, which invites university graduates with high grade averages. It can be a fraternal or philanthropic society such as the Masons or the Rotary Club, which invite people with similar backgrounds and a desire to help others. There are many international societies.

    The phrases "American society" or "Indian society" happen to refer to national groups, so they suggest that the members live in a geographical area. Yet this is not strictly correct. Many people from India live and work here in the United States, yet they still consider themselves members of Indian society... at least until they are granted American citizenship.

    As I said earlier, "from" is a preposition with no fixed meaning. Its most fundamental sense is one of motion away from one location and toward the location where the conversation is taking place. But this probably does not account for more than 5% of the instances of its use. I noted earlier that "from" does indeed mean exactly "against" in some cases--as in "protect from."

    If you look up the word "from" in a dictionary, you will find many different definitions. The same is true of most English prepositions.
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  5. Cyrus the Great Registered Senior Member

    Words cannot express my feelings, nor my thanks for all your help.

    Nevertheless, If "from" is a shortened way of saying "who come from" then is my prof right?
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "From" is sometimes a shortened form of "who come from," but it is not used that way in this case.

    When you say, "to defend society and its inhabitants from all ideologies," you are not saying, "to defend inhabitants who come from all ideologies." You are talking about defending the inhabitants of society against the ideologies.

    The key word here is its. This possessive pronoun refers back to "society."

    In contrast:
    People from Norway usually have very light skin, which allows them to synthesize an adequate amount of Vitamin D from the weak sunlight in that region. On the other hand, people from Africa usually have very dark skin, because they get plenty of sunlight and the melanin protects them from skin cancer.​

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