I have a question about the prepositions that go with "quarantine":

Doctors Without Borders, which Spencer had been working for in Guinea, said earlier on Friday that a quarantine on medics returning from Ebola-stricken countries would be an excessive measure.

Would replacing "a quarantine on medics" with "a quarantine of medics" be better? How are they different?


This is an example where neither would be wrong. It may be subtly different depending on the subject of your sentence/paragraph, like so.

When the quarantine is the subject:

The quarantine is being placed on the medics, it's a quarantine on medics

When the medics are the subject

The medics are being quarantined, it's a quarantine of medics

This is because a quarantine is a noun of something which is 'placed', but is also a verb of the action 'to quarantine' - similar to 'a tax' on earnings and 'to tax' earnings. This allows a little more flexibility in the use of the word.

In your example, the subject of the sentence is the concept of a quarantine, but neither use would be considered wrong.

  • I suppose there might be something in your distinction, but I think most people would neither notice nor care if you reversed the usage in your examples. There are a couple of dozen results each in Google Books for a quarantine on/of people, and I can't see any particular distinction between the different contexts. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 26 '14 at 22:14
  • Yeah if you note the main point of my answer is that it doesn't matter, neither would be wrong. I thought it worthwhile to explain the subtlety for extra detail, in case the original poster or another reader finds the context interesting – Jon Story Oct 26 '14 at 22:26
  • I'd guess much the same uncertainty over which preposition to use applies to curfew, and probably several other words. Relatively uncommon usages like this often don't have very fixed grammar. Unfortunately, we may be seeing a lot more "quarantine on/of ebola" in the coming months. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 26 '14 at 22:50

As Jon Story says, both are used by authors these days. But...IMO...

Enforcing words like 'ban' and 'quarantine' when used for nouns is generally seen with the preposition 'on'. Something like "ban on dogs in the park" and not "...of dogs..."

In Bradenton's article "Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner agree on imposing a quarantine on people returning..."

However, we do find examples of "quarantine of..." as in The Guardian.

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