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The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English caustions against using "be opposite to" so that the following would be incorrect if "to" were included:

Do not say that one thing is ‘opposite to’ or ‘opposite of’ another. Say that one thing is opposite another: There’s a car park opposite the hotel

However, the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary has the following examples:

He lives opposite to me.

Put one leg forward, and then lift the arm that is opposite to the forward leg.

Could anyone explain why "to" is used in one dictionary but not the other?

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  • You give actual language from Merriam-Webster, but not what the other dictionary says. How in the world are we supposed to explain any difference when we don’t know exactly what the difference is. Oct 1, 2022 at 4:03
  • @JeffMorrow See the edited post.
    – Apollyon
    Oct 1, 2022 at 4:09
  • I couldn't find those definitions in Merriam-Webster. I did find them here in The Britannica Dictionary though.
    – gotube
    Oct 1, 2022 at 4:22
  • Contemporary American speakers don't typically use "opposite" in this way. For example, we'd be far more likely to say, "He lives across from me." We use "opposite" plenty as an adjective or a noun - just not so often as an adverb. So it's actually kind of hard to have a strong feeling on the usage here.
    – cruthers
    Oct 1, 2022 at 5:10
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    I don't entirely agree with Longman. As a British English speaker I find the people sitting opposite to us perfectly acceptable. Oct 1, 2022 at 7:23

2 Answers 2

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I suppose opposite can be used with or without "to". Example sentences from The Free Dictionary by FARLEX.

  • Nevertheless, there she stood, anxiously fixing her eyes on one house in the row, nearly opposite to her -- the house she had looked for before entering the lodgings; the house inhabited at that moment by Noel Vanstone and Mrs.

  • The knights, entering at either end of the lists in long procession, arranged themselves in a double file, precisely opposite to each other, the leader of each party being in the centre of the foremost rank, a post which he did not occupy until each had carefully marshalled the ranks of his party, and stationed every one in his place.

Apparently use of "across" has increased and that of "opposite" has decreased.

Across vs Opposite

"Opposite to" is less commonly used compared to "Opposite-any word"

enter image description here

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At least for American English, the advice in Longman’s is wrong.

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=across+from%2Copposite+to&year_start=1800&year_end=2019&corpus=en-US-2019&smoothing=3

In fact, I would go so far as to say that using “opposite” as a preposition instead of “opposite to” in American speech sounds a bit pretentious or affected.

It is true, however, that when “opposite” is used as an adjective preceding the noun modified, “to” is not used in American English, e.g,

the opposite opinion

the opposite hand

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  • It is possible that some instances of "opposite to" on Google n-grams are not about positions, so they may be irrelevant to the OP's issue. Also, Longman seems to limit its restriction to "be opposite" rather than verbs in general.
    – Apollyon
    Oct 4, 2022 at 2:31
  • @Apollyon I have no doubt that you are correct. Ngram takes no account of context and so is a crude tool. My basic point is that “X is opposite to Y” is acceptable in American English. The Longman advice may or may not apply to British English, but it does not apply to American English as shown by both Ngram and a respected dictionary. Oct 4, 2022 at 14:46

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