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We are friends of him.

We are friends of his.

We are friends with him.

Which is right? Do these sentences have the same meaning?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The following illustrates the meaning of these phrases in terms of set notation. A more grammatical explanation is covered here: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/45371/why-do-we-say-of-mine-of-his-instead-of-of-me-of-him


We are friends of him. (Wrong)


We are friends of his. This grammar is ok.

The focus is on who "we are", where there may be other friends that he has as well. Here's an explanation using some set notation:

  • We = {John, Joe, Jane}
    Him = Frank
    Frank's Friends = {John, Joe, Jane, Mary, Sue, Mark}
    {John, Joe, Jane} is a subset of {John, Joe, Jane, Mary, Sue, Mark}
    We are a subset of His Friends.
    We are friends of his.

An alternate form of the same sentence is, "We are his friends." This is a more natural sounding sentence, connoting a closer, more familiar relationship.

The reverse, "He is a friend of ours" focuses on "who he is" and has an opposite "ownership" sense:

  • We = {John, Joe, Jane}
    Frank is one of John's Friends.
    Frank is one of Joe's Friends.
    Frank is one of Jane's Friends.
    Frank is a subset of "Our Common Set Of friends."
    He is a friend of ours.

Again, the alternate form, "He is our friend." connotes a closer, more familiar relationship.

Compare with "Those are cars of his." That means those cars belong to him, but implies he has other cars. However, the sentence "Those are his cars" can imply "Those are (all of) his cars." The difference is based in the common understanding of the world. We know that a person usually has many friends but a limited number of cars.


We are friends with him. This grammar is ok.

The focus is on the relationship, which is mutual. The reverse, "He is friends with us" has a very similar meaning grammatically, but is not used as much.

  • We = {John, Joe, Jane}
    He = Frank
    IsFriends(We, He) = True
    We are friends with him.

Note that "We are friends with him" is not as strong as "We are his friends."


We are friends. This grammar is ok.

In this case, there is a speaker indicating mutual friendship among a group of two or more people, including the speaker. It is the short form of "We are all friends with each other."

He's a good friend. This is another form that can be used when "we" or "I" is understood in context:

  • "Do you know Joe?"
  • "Yes, he's a good friend" = "Yes, he's a (good) friend of mine" = "Yes, I am a friend of his." = "Yes, we are friends."

Psychology Note: It may be interesting to consider a connection between psychology, persuasion, and identity in these language elements. Consider that we change "friend" to "fan", and suppose PersonA says to PersonB, "I am your fan." If this is believed, then a relationship is established:

  • { PersonA, PersonB } = { ResourceSupplier, ResourceConsumer }

However, if PersonA says to PersonB, "You are my fan", and if this is believed, then

  • { PersonA, PersonB } = { ResourceConsumer, ResourceSupplier }

Where "resource" can be anything from "time", "effort", "admiration", "money", "facebook fans", "twitter followers", etc.

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Thank you. Very detailed. But "He is friends with us" is so weird to me. The verb is singular and friends is plural. Is it an idiomatic expression? –  MarkZar Mar 5 at 5:58
    
By the way, I really enjoyed answering your question! Sometimes the most simple questions can lead to intriguing research and concepts about answers. –  CoolHandLouis Mar 6 at 4:17
    
Thank you for you kind advice. Indeed I wasn't accustomed to upvoting answers, but I will try from now on. :) –  MarkZar Mar 6 at 14:50
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They do mean the same thing, but maybe they are used slightly differently.

Paul is a friend of Jayne.

Paul is friends with Jayne.

In the first example friend is singular as Paul is a friend belonging to Jayne. In the second example friend is plural as Paul and Jayne are friends with each other

I am not a expert in English but I was born in the UK and I speak British English

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Thank you. But why do you use "Paul is friends with Jayne"? is is singular and friends is plural, I feel a little weird to it. Do you also say "He is brothers with me" or "He is mates with me"? –  MarkZar Mar 5 at 6:01
    
I think the body of your post might contradict the starting sentence. What if Paul's a friend of Jayne but Jayne's not a friend of Paul? I think in this instance you could use the first sentence but not the second. –  starsplusplus Mar 5 at 10:07
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MarkZar - Great follow-up question! Idiomatically, friends with is usually pluralized, because – creepy stalking exceptions put aside – most friendships are reciprocated. If Paul is a friend of Jayne, then we can generally assume Jayne is a friend of Paul. NOAD puts it this way: be (or make) friends with - be (or become) on good or affectionate terms with (someone). Also (minor point), I wouldn't quite say Paul is a friend of Jayne means "Paul is a friend belonging to Jayne," but rather, "Paul is one of Jayne's friends" ("belong" sounds a bit off in the context of friendship). –  J.R. Mar 5 at 11:31
    
I would say Adam is a brother of Paul - or more likely Adam is Paul's brother. I would say Paul and Adam are brothers. –  RedPython Mar 5 at 17:24
    
Also, as language is very fluid, and the meaning of "friends" can range along a spectrum of several dimensions. At some extreme levels, being a "friend of someone-else" can be a life-or-death distinction. At lesser extremes, it can get you a job. An interesting study suggested that friends are formed by proximity - close regular contact contributed to friendship. But when social hierarchy was important (managers, wealthy), then friendships were more influenced by social status. (I find this interesting not in terms of judgement, but rather as insight to human social behavior.) –  CoolHandLouis Mar 6 at 18:48
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