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thefreedictionary.com:
(1) I was blown away by how good that movie was!

As far as I understand, if we took "by" away, the sentence would also remain correct:
(2) I was blown away how good that movie was!

I wonder if there's any difference between (1) and (2).

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    #2 is idiomatic in AmE (as is #1). "I was surprised how well he did."
    – TimR
    Nov 30, 2023 at 14:49
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    blown away here is syntactically the same as surprised, astonished, amazed,... The proposition (at, by, and possibly others) is optional. Nov 30, 2023 at 14:51
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    @TimR: There's no US/UK usasge split here. If you switch from UK to US corpus on this usage chart, nothing much changes. Nov 30, 2023 at 14:54
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    I'm discombobulated how odd it seems not to include a preposition here. (Well, actually, I'm not! :) Nov 30, 2023 at 15:21
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    There won't be special syntactic categories for verbs that do or don't "require" a preposition between the verb and a how ADJECTIVE something is phrase. Most individual speakers will draw the line somewhere between "sounds okay" and "sounds weird", but that's really just personal preference. Nov 30, 2023 at 15:47

1 Answer 1

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Unquestionably, the only difference between OP's two examples is syntactic, not semantic. Some (not all) native Anglophones will find the "prepositionless" version #2 at least "awkward", if not downright ungrammatical.

I contend that the specific case of the phrasal verb blown away is simply "less familiar" to us than, say, surprised, when used without a preposition before ...how [adjective something is]. But whether people like #2 or not, it means the same as #1.


Oxford Learners Dictionaries is a perfectly sound authority, and they give this example "prepositionless" usage...

You’d be surprised how many people voted for him.

And here's a usage chart comparing that format with two possible prepositions...

enter image description here


TL;DR: As can be seen from comments and other answers, not everyone agrees with the prepositionless usage before an adverbial how- clause. Presumably that's because when it's a "standard" noun phrase, such as...

I was surprised by a loud noise

...you can't omit the preposition. But many people are perfectly happy to say how- clauses work differently, so it's okay with them.

Anyone who thinks English might support a "rule" whereby blown away has different syntactic affordances to surprised is simply mistaken. The specific verb may affect some people's personal preference, but that's just preference.

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    Those who process surprised and blown away similarly will hear nothing amiss; those who don't will hear something marginal or ungrammatical. Some learners will want to know when a significant portion of the population will hear a construction as marginal or ungrammatical, and ngrams are not a particularly apt tool for such questions.
    – TimR
    Nov 30, 2023 at 17:40
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    We'll just have to agree to disagree. You're entitled to your personal preferences, and I'd never have downvoted your answer if it didn't explicitly distinguish the two possibilities as "correct / incorrect". I don't accept some people use/prefer the "incorrect" version as a valid stance to take on a usage like this. That would still be the case even if I hadn't found a dictionary example with no such "warning" - but with it, I think it's an open-and-shut case. Nov 30, 2023 at 18:03
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    -1 because this is an answer to the comment thread below the question, not the question itself. The question itself is not about the correctness of "blown away how", but about how it's different to "blown away by how", which is not addressed. Happy to undo it if you tag me
    – gotube
    Dec 1, 2023 at 18:33
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    @gotube: Does the newly-added section at the front do the trick? Dec 1, 2023 at 19:08
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    @FumbleFingers Yep!
    – gotube
    Dec 2, 2023 at 20:16

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