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I encountered a sentence in the Oxford Dictionaries' definition of dead:

‘higher up, the marble becomes of a dull, dead colour’

The phrasal verb become of doesn't make sense here. According to the dictionaries I have just checked, it is usually used with "what" and means "happen to." I thought the sentence above would work better with becomes (without of). What does become of mean here?

1 Answer 1

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Higher up, the marble becomes a dull, dead colour.

This would mean that the marble transforms into a colour, which is odd.

We have three ways of describing the color of the marble:

1) The colour of the marble is dull and dead.
2) The marble is of a dull, dead colour.
3) The marble has a dull, dead colour.

We can use the word becomes in the first two structures:

1) The colour of the marble becomes dull and dead.
2) The marble becomes of a dull, dead colour.

But not in the last structure.

Thus,

1) Higher up, the color of the marble becomes dull and dead.
2) Higher up, the marble becomes of a dull, dead color.

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  • So basically, become of is not a phrasal verb here, but a verb and a preposition?
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 29, 2018 at 3:00
  • @L.Moneta - yes Apr 29, 2018 at 3:01
  • 1
    +1. This locution is now a fossil. Charles Darwin may have used it, but it has since evolved into turns (into). Apr 29, 2018 at 10:39

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