Are the two the same? Or they have different meanings?


It used to be worse; whole evenings crying and yelling.

It used to be worse; whole evenings of crying and yelling.

I used to think that the construction with of was incorrect. But I found that usage on Google.

  • You should really confine your Google searches to Google Books, for one thing, but should not confine yourself to the precise phrase but instead also search for analogues, for example, days (of) celebrating. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 9 '18 at 14:07

Both are idiomatic.

Years (of) wandering in the desert.

The practical meaning is identical: in the desert for years as nomads.

The nuanced difference is that one expresses the action verbally and the other nominally.

  • 1
    P.S. While I would not reject your sentence on grounds of its current punctuation, a comma or an em-dash would be far more common there than a semi-colon. In a work of fiction, you could even have a sentence fragment if you wanted. It used to be worse. Whole evenings (of) crying and yelling. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 9 '18 at 14:02
  • Or in a work of autobiography or biography. The author of such works has freedoms that the author of a newspaper article, instructional manual, legal brief, etc does not have. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 9 '18 at 14:10

Note that both sentences are actually ungrammatical because a semicolon should only be used if what follows is an independent clause.

Replace the semicolon with a period, and you will see the problem. What follows the semicolon does not stand on its own as anything other than a sentence fragment.

But you can use a comma instead, where what follow it acts to modify what came before:

It used to be worse, with whole evenings of crying and yelling.
It used to be worse, with whole evenings spent crying and yelling.
It used to be worse, with whole evenings filled with crying and yelling.

The first sentence doesn't work so well:

✘ It used to be worse, with whole evenings crying and yelling.

On analysis (although it would likely be understood anyway), it sounds as if it's the evenings themselves that are doing the crying and yelling.

Even if you allow the semicolon to remain, the problem is the same. Without something before crying and yelling it has an effect similar to a misplaced modifier.

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