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While reading Gone with the Wind I've come across this sentence:

Aunt Pity was heaving and sighing on her shoulder and, with small ceremony, Scarlett pushed her over into a corner of the carriage and continued her reading.

Cambridge Dictionary says that push sb over means to push someone or something so that they fall to the ground. But I can't match this definition with the sentence above. Did Scarlett push Aunt Pity so that she fell into the corner of the carriage? I can hardly imagine that.

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This is not a use of the phrasal verb push over, but the simple verb push and the adverb over, meaning, "across a space".

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  • Thanks! It looks I'm bad at telling a phrasal verb and a verb with an adverb apart. – Kirill Fertikov Jan 16 at 21:52
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    I don't think there's any algorithmic way of telling. Learning how to parse potentially ambiguous structures like a native is one of the hardest parts of learning a language, I think. – Colin Fine Jan 16 at 21:56
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It doesn't have to be "to the ground". There is not much "ground" in a carriage to fairly push someone over onto.

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Historic 'Gone With the Wind' carriage

over here implies Scarlett fell from the position that she was in before. Scarlett could be standing, or sitting too close to Aunt Pity, making her annoyed/uncomfortable. Then Aunt Pity pushed her over into/in the corner to free up some space and/or to distance herself from Scarlett.

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  • As a native English speaker (though not an American), I can say that the phrasal verb push over does not even occur to me when I read this passage. See my answer. – Colin Fine Jan 17 at 16:31

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