Anytime I encounter this verb, "comprise", it makes me wonder why there are transitive ( mostly ) and intransitive ( often with the preposition, of ).

Especially considering the definition of 5 a of the transitive and the definition of the intransitive. ( As is shown below )

From Merrian UMerrian U.

Is there any instance when we should particularly use the intransitive ( and vise versa ).

Or to say in another words, is there any definite distinction between them?

  • It's not that your question is too broad; rather I do not understand what you mean by ' "necessity" to be divided '. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 at 11:12
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo Transitive 5a: the fortress comprises many miles of entrenchment; intransitive: the funds comprise of members' subscriptions. If of is optional, then the funds comprise members' subscriptions ~? the fortress comprises many miles of entrenchment. (I think that's what they're aiming at.) – userr2684291 Jun 13 at 11:17
  • One meaning of the transitive is "has within it" and the other meaning is "constitutes" and the intransitive meaning is "is constituted of". The subject of the predication changes accordingly. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 at 11:25
  • The prison comprises 250 cells. The capacity of the prison shall comprise of 200 dual-bunk and 50 solitary-confinement cells. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 at 11:32
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    You don't have to justify in your question (or anywhere) why you chose to accept a certain answer. Also, please put all your comments about answers under the answers you reference; your question isn't really the right place to put them because the answerers won't be pinged and so they won't know if you have any suggestions/requests for clarification. – userr2684291 Jun 13 at 13:53
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Comprises is as you say, a transitive verb. It only requires a direct object, and therefore...

the fortress comprises (verb) many miles of entrenchment (object)

... is quite correct.

"Comprised of" is used as an expression, but it is technically incorrect. "Comprises" means "consists of", so the "of" is redundant. And yet it is quite widely used! I didn't realise how widely until I Googled it - the expression has found its way into legal language in the US.

So to answer your question of "is there a necessity" - no, there isn't.

But everyday English is full of redundancies:

  • "Reverted back"
  • "past histories"
  • "the reason for this"

Once an incorrect expression starts to be used, it can spread like wildfire because often people learn language by "chunking"; that is imitating phrases and expressions rather than learning the intricacies of how that phrase has been put together.

  • hmmmm interesting. Thank you. However, to non native speakers, it goes right straight to their mind "What a..." – Kentaro Tomono Jun 13 at 11:44
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    @Kentaro Tomono: Sorry, but I do not know what fills the blank space. "subtle and expressive language that combines the best and worst of German and French" ? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 at 11:52
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    @KentaroTomono English speakers find lots of things in other languages strange. Having to think about whether a table is male or female before referring to it. And pomme de terre??? It's nothing like an apple. But you accept these things just as we accept (and love) our own language. Personally I feel that English is a living language, always evolving (admittedly not always for the better, but still). – Astralbee Jun 13 at 12:37
  • @Astralbee There's no such thing as natural devolution of a living language. Therefore, when you say "not [...] for the better", that's entirely subjective (it's hard to adapt). I'd say, as is the case with the evolution of anything, there's a tendency towards optimization. In language, that might, for example, reflect in reduction of forms unnecessary to convey information (e.g., I think we'd both agree that forms thou and thee are unnecessary to convey what you does today – and I'd bet you don't think there's anything wrong with using you instead of thee and so on). – userr2684291 Jun 13 at 13:47
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    @KentaroTomono No, it says it's regarded by some random prescriptivists as "incorrect". Here's what MWDEU says about this (an actual usage dictionary): "[T]he aspersed […] passive construction [has been in use] for more than a century. It is a little hard to understand why [this construction that is] so obviously established [is] still the source of so much discontent. […] Our advice to you is to realize that the disputed sense is established and standard, but nevertheless liable to criticism. If such criticism concerns you, you can probably avoid comprise by using [other verbs]." – userr2684291 Jun 13 at 19:52

When we say

The funds of the association shall comprise of member subscriptions.

we are saying that the sole source of funding for the association shall be member subscriptions.

Another way to specify that exclusivity:

The funds of the association shall be comprised of member subscriptions.

When we say

The association's funding shall comprise member subscriptions.

we are not specifying anything about the exclusivity of the funding. There may be funds from sources other than member subscriptions.

School lunches shall comprise two vegetables.

School lunches shall be comprised of two vegetables.

School lunches shall comprise of two vegetables.

Which sentence(s) wouldn't you want to find in the school's legal contract with the food service company?

  • I think you began confused, and comprise is confusing. Consider: Prepare the food in advance. The food was prepared in advance. Compose the meal of a protein, a vegetable, and a starch. The meal is composed of a protein, a vegetable, and a starch. These verbs are essentially transitive. The perfect state (when the PP is used adjectivally) harbors a transitive operation. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 at 12:49

The Oxford dictionary of English discusses this in a note:

Comprise primarily means ‘consist of’, as in the country comprises twenty states. It can also mean ‘constitute or make up a whole’, as in this single breed comprises 50 per cent of the Swiss cattle population. When this sense is used in the passive (as in the country is comprised of twenty states), it is more or less synonymous with the first sense (the country comprises twenty states). This usage is part of standard English, but the construction comprise of, as in the property comprises of bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, is regarded as incorrect.

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