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I have run into an intransitive form of “to take” that is not documented in any of these sources: Oxford Dictionary, Webster Collegiate, www.linguee.fr :

At this point she was persuaded that what she needed was a week-end with Peter. He took against her in a big way: [next follows a quotation where Peter explains he does not believe a single word what she says.]

I cannot make heads or tails of it.

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    ODO, at least, has this expression: take against. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 17:17
  • @StoneyB — Ah ! ODO stands for Oxford Dictionary and, indeed, it has this expression. Your answer is perfectly satisfactory. Now I searched under 'to take' and got no result with phrasal verbs. Please tell me how you did it, so that next time I can get better hits.
    – Brice C.
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 18:38
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    @BriceC. No single dictionary contains every expression. I suggest using a multi-dictionary search like OneLook: onelook.com/?w=take%20against&ls=a It's not perfect, but it's a very helpful tool.
    – user230
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 1:57
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    By the way, to is a separate word. The actual verb is take, and that's how it'll be listed in most dictionaries.
    – user230
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 2:01
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    The phrasal verb "take against" is also listed in Cambridge Dictionary, meaning to begin to dislike somebody such as I think she took against me when I got the promotion she wanted.
    – Khan
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 11:55

1 Answer 1

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More common is to say someone "takes to" something.

She took to the water as if she had been a dolphin in a past life.

I've never heard "took against". What I hear is "took an instant disliking to" or "disliked it instantly". Yet it's perfectly reasonable to interpret "took against" as being the negative parallel. (Sometimes we speak of "taking sides" and "took the side against" would be a way of pointing out which team you are opposing.)

Although this particular example sounds strained when inverted with "took against":

She took against the water as if she had been a cat in a past life.

You might have to rephrase that as:

She took against swimming as if she had been a cat in a past life.

Not common usage, in any case. But "taking to" something is said frequently.

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  • Looking through corpus results, I find a couple things: (1) there are essentially no results for this expression in American English. (2) in British English, this sense of take to is at least an order of magnitude more common than this sense of take against. (It's easy to find examples of take against in AmE, but every result I looked at turned out to be a false positive, so I recommend that anyone using a tool like Google Books Ngram Viewer be careful not to jump to conclusions.)
    – user230
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 5:31
  • Although I am grateful to HostileFork for his answer, I find it hard to adhere to — i.e. 'to take against' would be the opposite 'image' of 'to take to'. However logical this might sound phrasal verbs do not follow any logical process but only usage. For instance 'to put s.o. up' (i.e. to accomodate) appears to have no logical connotation whatsoever with 'to put s.o. down' (i.e. criticizing openly in front of others). Therefore it would be absurd, if looking up for the latter returned no hit, to deduce it meant 'to praise s.o.'.
    – Brice C.
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 8:17

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