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Is the preposition to correct in the following? I'd have expected either no "to" or "anything" in front of "to."

Until he hears [to] the contrary, he said, he is going ahead as planned, his first show, the Print Fair, opening on Nov. 1.

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    Hears to the contrary has the implied meaning hears information to the contrary - that is, that the show cannot take place. Oct 2, 2021 at 12:18
  • Is the to optional?
    – Apollyon
    Oct 2, 2021 at 13:07
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    I don't think it is optional in this context. See this Ngram. I would understand hears the contrary to mean hears the opposite to a fact or idea that has just been mentioned. Oct 2, 2021 at 13:23
  • I don't understand the difference.
    – Apollyon
    Oct 2, 2021 at 15:19
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    I think the difference between "hears the contrary" and "hears to the contrary" is that the former refers to a specific statement contradicting, while the latter could be something more general or vague from which you could infer. For instance, if you assume you're going to the beach with your friend Paul, but then hear Paul is going to the city, that would be hearing something to the contrary, rather than hearing the contrary.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 30 at 9:50

1 Answer 1

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As commented by @Kate, the cited example includes an implied noun phrase (such as information). In such contexts (to hear [something which is] to the contrary), the preposition is always to, and the adverbial element modifies the primary verb (hear in this case) for which that noun phrase is the direct object...

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Alternatively, the adverbial element [preposition] the contrary may be a "whole sentence adverb" modifying a preceding sentence (or independent clause withing the current sentence). An easy way to pick that context out is to include the contrastive conjunction but...

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...where as you can see, the preferred preposition switches decisively to on.

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