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There's an idiomatic expression "to be done with something" meaning to finish it. And there's a sentence in a question posted here:

When the sun dropped low behind the hills and we were done playing for the day, ...

It is a correct sentence, and to me, it's perfectly understandable, but...

There's not "with" after "we were done", and it puzzled me.

I have never met it as it is in the sentence - without with, and I'm wondering why it is missing there.

Is it the gerund "playing" that makes "with" unnecessary, or anything else?

Are there other expressions like "be done" where the use of the gerund excludes the use of a preposition before it or allows omitting a preposition? Could you provide a few examples of those?

  • It sounds like you're looking for a serious linguistic explanation and not just more anecdotal evidence from native speakers? It seems to me that the gerund makes the "with" optional, but this may be due more to dialect than actual grammar. Both "I'm done eating dinner" and "I'm done with eating dinner" are fine. The first sounds more natural to me, but the second might sound better to other English speakers. – Andrew Oct 3 '16 at 23:31
  • @Andrew - Thanks for the comment. Indeed, omne ignotum pro magnifico. Of course, a couple of pieces of anecdotal evidence from a native speaker would be great! – Lamplighter Oct 3 '16 at 23:42
  • @Andrew I don't think so. I'm done with eating dinner sounds like "I will never again eat dinner". Only if a determiner like this or a possessive like Susan's precedes the noun does it escape the general case: "I'm done with eating this dinner". – P. E. Dant Oct 4 '16 at 0:40
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    @Andrew ...and of course, in your comment you have by chance used one of the mealtime nouns (lunch, brunch, supper, dinner, breakfast) which have special properties and usages in English (see related questions here and at ELU) so that things like "I'm done with dinner" are exceptions to Colin Fine's answer below. – P. E. Dant Oct 4 '16 at 0:48
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It's not a matter of "omitting a preposition" - these are different idioms.

"Done" = "finished", which may take a gerund complement, implies simply that you are no longer doing the activity. If it is a telic activity, there is an implication that end has been reached, but it does not have to be telic.

"Done with" = "finished with", which takes a NP complement, but not usually a gerund, means something like "have stopped using the thing, and have no further need or interest in it". It doesn't necessarily imply completion, even when the activity is telic.

So

We were done playing

just means we had stopped

We were done with playing

means something stronger, that we didn't intend to continue.

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    In my comment above I noticed that there are exceptions for mealtime nouns (and probably some others that I can't come up with right now.) "I'm done with breakfast" should not be taken to mean that I won't have any more morning meals, whereas "I'm done with football" means I don't want to play football again. – P. E. Dant Oct 4 '16 at 0:52
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    @P.E.Dant: Indeed. And even with football, something like "I'm done with football for the year" is not at all contradictory. (There are also exceptions going the other way: "I'm done making excuses for him", for example. So there are definitely more subtleties here than we've identified so far.) – ruakh Oct 4 '16 at 6:45

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