I consulted http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cast%20about and http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/cast-about-or-around-or-round?q=cast+about but still don't understand why there's an indirect object pronoun after cast about? Can her be omitted?

Source: Joanna Trollope, Britannia’s Daughters, The Cresset Library, 1988

Miss Rye ran a highly successful law-copying office for women clerks in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and because she was besieged by the demands of educated women for work, she had cast about her for an alternative and suitable occupation and had come up with the idea of emigration. There was a rising demand in Australia, New Zealand and Natal for superior servants and for governesses and Miss Rye felt that the women who begged her for employment would be ideally suited...

Afterword: I thought to mention that answerer CopperKettle linked to a PDF on dependent prepositions patterns, which doesn't contain cast about, but am I right that the same phenomenon applies here?

1 Answer 1


There, her is a reflexive pronoun.

To "cast about...for {something}" means to look around for something haphazardly, not with a plan of action.

To "cast about {oneself} for {something} " means to look for something haphazardly, without a plan of action, in one's immediate vicinity.

In this passage, literal "vicinity" (e.g. in the grass at one's feet, or in one's room) is not what is meant; rather it means "local situation or circumstances".

So it is a weakly metaphorical use of the idea of an unmethodical search for something in one's vicinity.

  • +1. Thanks. Would you please be able to cite a dictionary that states the second meaning with the reflexive pronoun? I haven't found one yet.
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 15:28
  • I doubt one would find it as a separate entry under the verb because it's not really a separate meaning. Compare She looked about for something sharp to cut the twine. She looked about her for something sharp to cut the twine. The first might mean she went all around the suite of offices looking for a pair of scissors or a utility knife. The second might mean she confined her search to the office in which she found herself.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 15:45
  • Thank you again. Would you please see my Afterword in my updated OP? Am I right about that?
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 14:41
  • Is your question in respect to the use of the preposition for in the verb phrase cast about (her) for ... {something}? Or are you asking about about? Or something else? I don't follow.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 15:36
  • My afterword just asks about a reference or source or name of the phenomenons involved in `cast about (her) for ... {something}. Does that help? I interpret this as a case of 'prepositions after a transitive verb', but is there a pithier way to describe this?
    – user8712
    Commented Oct 12, 2014 at 16:07

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