It is animals and plants which lived in or near water whose remains are most likely to be preserved. ... The remains of plants and animals that lived on land are much more rarely preserved, for there is seldom anything to cover them over. ...They decompose and get quickly destroyed by weather, or they are eaten by some other creature.

By Errol Ivor White (1901-1985), The Past Life of the Earth, Discovery, 1961

My rewrite:

for there is seldom anything to cover them over with.

Which is more common? Are both correct?

  • What's the context? Have you looked up sentences with "cover", visit Lexico to find examples. lexico.com/en/definition/cover BTW to put "over" something or "cover" something have similar meanings. Put a blanket over him VS Cover him with a blanket.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 11, 2022 at 8:32
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks for pointing out. I just provided the context. Do you want to answer?
    – joy2020
    Jun 11, 2022 at 12:12
  • The original is fine. There is no need to add "with". The substance that covers and preserves the dead bodies of animals will be silt, mud, sand, ash etc. If I physically use a type of material to cover something over then I might add "with", e.g. I covered (over) the bird's eggs with soft wool, feathers, and straw. Which means the eggs were completely "hidden" from sight.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 11, 2022 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


You should keep "with".

Here is what the phrasal verb cover over means:

Put something on top of something else so that it is completely hidden. (Longman)
The female lays a single egg and covers it over.

Cover something completely so that it cannot be seen (Oxford)
The Roman remains are now covered over by office buildings.

Put one thing over another, in order to protect or hide it (Longman)
The floor was covered with plastic sheeting.

So basically you can either just use:
cover something over
Or if you want to mention what was used to cover something over:
cover something over with/by something/nothing

To clarify, "over" doesn't work as a preposition here. It's a part of the phrasal verb "cover over".

Putting it another way:

You cover something with/by something. (This doesn't necessarily tell us if it was covered completely or not.)
You cover something over with/by something. (This emphasizes that it was covered completely.)


With the context @joy2020 has now provided, I think the sentence makes much more sense without the preposition "with".

  • To be fair, when PPH answered this, I didn't provide context, but just presented a standalone sentence: There is nothing to cover the bodies over (with). I thought this wouldn't interfere with the question, which is whether to use a preposition in this sentence construction.
    – joy2020
    Jun 11, 2022 at 16:13

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