Random House dictionary (RHD) has these examples for: of (used to indicate derivation, origin, or source):

I have a favour to ask of you.
Don’t expect too much of him.

And I can add one from a Korean dictionary:

I asked a question of her.

I can guess these of’s have this meaning:
the complement of ‘of’ is an agent that will satisfy the subject’s hope or demand, from which they say ‘of’ is used do indicate origin or source. Can this be possible interpretation for those of’s?


That's right, though I doubt any native speaker thinks of it that way, or "feels" it that way. In fact, a PP with of for the person questioned is very rare in US colloquial speech; it is mostly a literary construction.

  • I agree with your first point. I think native speakers just use this construction because they have been exposed to it, rather than taught it. However, I disagree with the statement that it is mostly a literary construction. I suppose how often one has heard the phrase plays a role in whether the construction is part of one's colloquial repertoire. – user6951 Oct 12 '14 at 0:36
  • @CarSmack Yes, I got too focused on question and favor, which I only hear with of from academics: colloquially, in my experience, question almost always takes the NP, not the PP, and favor is more likely to use from than of. But of is I think more common than from with "expect". – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 12 '14 at 0:52
  • At first, I would add this example, I need to ask a question of you, from Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s. But its example is not for ‘of’ but ‘ask,’ so I got an example from a Korean one, which says ‘of’ means ‘source,’ just as RHD says. – Listenever Oct 12 '14 at 1:08

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