0

I'd like to know whether "of" is properly used in the following sentences:

  1. John bought a rope of between 10 and 20 cm.

  2. John bought a rope between 10 and 20 cm.

  3. John bought a rope of between 10 and 20 cm in length.

  4. John bought a rope between 10 and 20 cm in length.

  5. John bought a rope of 10–20 cm.

  6. John bought a rope 10–20 cm.

  7. John bought a rope of 10–20 cm in length.

  8. John bought a rope 10–20 cm in length.

I'd appreciate your help.

2

Yes, it is idiomatic to use of in such expressions.

A distance of ten or twenty miles.

A journey of ten or twenty miles.

A speed of between 80 and 90 miles per hour.

A ladder of 30 feet.

He placed the billet or steel in a furnace of over 1000 degrees.

When using of there is no need to include the prepositional phrase expressing the nature of the measurement:

You will need a ladder 30 feet in length.

and it sounds a little "off" to my ear to include the prepositional phrase when using of:

A ladder of 30 feet in length.

but I wouldn't go so far as to say it was unidiomatic.

But of is required if you omit that prepositional phrase:

You will need a ladder 30 feet. unidiomatic

You will need a ladder of 30 feet.

  • Do you mean #2 and #6 of the OP are unidiomatic? – Apollyon Dec 22 '18 at 12:02
  • The word between and the hyphenated measurement 20-30 soften the jarring effect somewhat. But I would consider this marginal: John bought a rope 20cm. My ear is waiting for long or in length. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 22 '18 at 12:18
  • As always, this is based on my sense of how people use these phrases. I'm not being prescriptive. But you could easily hear this in a hardware store: I need a strand of wire ... {reflective pause} 20-30 cm or I need a strand of wire, oh...some 20-30cm or I need a strand of wire ... um...let's say 20-30 cm. The less precise the statement, the more vague it is, the more hesitant the speaker in delivering it, the fewer demands there are upon it to be "well formed". The reflective pause and the words some and let's say fulfill the function of of. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 22 '18 at 12:27
  • As a corollary to my comment above, your barebones presentation of phrases in a vacuum is NOT a good way to ask many of the questions you ask, since small things often make major differences. Always supply a context for these utterances (are you writing an ad, a formal essay, a letter to the editor, a journal article, whatever) and a full sentence that dramatizes the situation concretely. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 22 '18 at 12:58
  • Suppose I were writing a school essay. Would #1 be natural? As in many other cases, I've received mixed responses to the sentences; someone says only #8 comes close to being correct (albeit with "long" in place of "in length"), and another says he'd only use #4 (albeit, again, with "long" in place of "in length"). – Apollyon Dec 22 '18 at 17:25

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.