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While I was reading news, I came across a sentence in which I couldn't understand the use of the preposition 'of'.

A state owned cooperative society has been accused of having defrauded scores of unsuspecting students of sizeable sums of money as tution fee by enrolling them in vocational training course.

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    Defraud students of money=took money from students
    – V.V.
    Oct 27, 2016 at 6:29
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    The idea is of having stolen meney from students by cheating them. Defraud - to trick or cheat someone or something in order to get money : to use fraud in order to get money from a person, an organization, etc. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defraud
    – user5267
    Oct 27, 2016 at 6:40

2 Answers 2

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The definition of defraud is "to take something from someone by fraud." The direct object of the verb is the one who lost something. The preposition of is used with this verb to indicate what was taken. So, we can roughly reword the sentence as follows:

They defrauded students of sizeable sums of money.

They took sizeable sums of money from students through fraud.

The phrase with of is optional; you can leave it out, in which case you are not specifying what was taken.

They defrauded students.

They took something from students through fraud.

There are other verbs with similar meanings that use out of for this relationship, to say what was lost.

He cheated her out of her life savings.

They were tricked out of their land.

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In the example sentence, "of sizable sums" is a subordinate phrase that describes the amount of money. "of money" is also a subordinate phrase describing "defrauded". Normally subordinate phrases give details about another part of a sentence but if removed from the sentence doesn't change the basic meaning of that sentence. I marked non-critical (to the basic sentence meaning) words in parentheses below. These parts of the sentence give details to the main sentence, but removing any or all of them will leave the basic sentence meaning intact.

A ((state owned) (cooperative)) society has been accused of having defrauded (scores of) (unsuspecting) students ((of sizeable sums) of money (as tuition fee)) (by enrolling them (in vocational training course)).

Removing some of the words and phrases marked above leaves us with:

A state owned society has been accused of having defrauded
scores of unsuspecting students by enrolling them.

Removing all of the marked words leaves us with:

A society has been accused of having defrauded students.

This last sentence has its basic meaning intact, despite removing 2/3 of the words.

When a sentence has subordinate phrases describing other subordinate phrases it makes that sentence very difficult to understand. It is also an indicator that the sentence should be probably re-written to make it easier for readers to understand. Learning to spot and ignore subordinate (non-critical) phrases and words to determine basic sentence meaning, as well as determining which parts of a sentence descriptive words are giving more details about are both important tools help determine meaning from overly complicated or badly written sentences.

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    why is this down voted? it looks correct to me
    – Saad Lulu
    Oct 27, 2016 at 7:13
  • I did not downvote this - "of sizable sums" is not a clause. A clause is a group of words containing one subject and one verb.
    – shin
    Oct 27, 2016 at 7:18
  • @shin: I probably should have used the word phrase rather than clause in my answer. editing now. Oct 27, 2016 at 7:20

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