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As I drove to the police station, I tried to control alternating bouts of numbness and hysteria. Pacing the reception area, all I could think of was that he was only a few meters away from me, and that he needed his mother immediately, which was apparently contrary to the police officers' opinions.

I understand when I read sentences that similar to above one, but I couldn't figure out how the of is used. I'm expecting the "of" to be used as "something of something" but how can we use like that?

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  • Could you re-phrase that, please? Is "As I drove to the police station, I tried to control alternating bouts of numbness and hysteria…" useful? On the most most basic level, there is no useful difference between "all I could think of" and "all I could think" Is "…all I could think of was…" what you're really Asking about? Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 20:29

3 Answers 3

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It's shorthand for: "all I could think of (from all possible thoughts) was X"

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    @medstutechent or it can be read as "all I could think about was..."
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 2:29
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    I don't think this is correct. It's not shorthand; George's answer is right to say it's a phrasal verb. Also, your expansion only adds a prepositional phrase, which doesn't change the fact that there is no object of the preposition "of," which was what the OP was confused about. Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 4:17
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In this case, of is a part of a larger phrasal verb--in this case, 'to think of.' To think of something is to be reminded of it, to consider it, or to make an opinion about it. It is almost a synonym of the phrase 'to think about.' Here are some examples:

I could not think of the answer before the time ran out in the exam.

I didn't like Bob when we worked together; I thought of him as a bit of a mean person.

We started dating a week ago and I can't stop thinking of [or about] her

In the passage you give, the clause

all I could think of was that he was only a few meters away from me

means "I could not think about anything except for the fact that he was only a few meters away from me;" or "The only thought in my mind was that he was only a few meters away from me." Here, "all I could think of" is a noun phrase.

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    This answer deserves a checkmark!
    – DialFrost
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 8:14
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In this context, think of means the same thing as think about.

This is a complex sentence, but let’s pull out the main clause of it:

all I could think of was [....]

This is saying that the speaker was only able to think about one thing (or in this case, several related things, which they immediately list). They were unable to concentrate on anything else, and kept ruminating on that. The clause “[that] I could think of” is restrictive: it limits “all.”

The sentence as a whole is complicated, but makes sense if you keep track of what each clause modifies.

We begin with a clause describing what the speaker was doing while he was thinking of these things. This kind of simultaneous gerund is equivalent to, “[As I was] pacing [in] the reception area,” but the author had just started the previous sentence with “As I was,” and probably did not want to repeat themself.

Then, the subject contains the subordinate clause we just saw.

Then, the predicate is a conjunction of two facts, which are both noun clauses of their own (“that he was ...” and “that he needed ....”)

Then, the second half of the conjunction has a nonrestrictive subordinate clause of its own, describing how it is a problem. It expresses this in an extremely polite and indirect way to add a bit of humor to a dark situation.

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