I have come across the following sentence in New Round-Up 3 2010 Pearson Education Limited:

Well, he was riding his bike to school when a cat jumped out in front of him. He tried to stop but he fell against a wall.

Such usage of the verb 'fell' in the above phrase struck me as unusual to say the least.

Is it grammatically correct?

How common is such like usage in everyday life?

  • What was 'he' doing before he fell? Was 'he' running? Standing? – miltonaut Dec 11 '14 at 10:32
  • what's wrong with a normal usage of fell there? I did not get you. – Maulik V Dec 11 '14 at 10:55
  • i'm not sure whether it is possible to say 'to fall against' - I have never come across these two words used together #MaulikV – Yukatan Dec 11 '14 at 13:14
  • Yes, the sentence is fine, natural, and idiomatic. Of course, it may not be clear who tried to stop, the bicyclist or the cat. However usually it will be used to signify the cat. – user6951 Dec 11 '14 at 18:40

By definition fall as an intransitive verb requires a downward motion.

So if a statement meets this requirement and a definition of against, then the usage should be OK.

In the example:

He tried to stop but he fell against a wall.

if he just did not stop and ran into the wall, it does not seem to be a correct usage.
But if he tried to stop and the fell over against the wall, then the usage should be OK.

Having said that, as a general statement I think in normal usage against relates to a horizontal action, while fell relates to a vertical action. As such they do not go well together.

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  • You've just voiced my opinion - the verb 'to fall' implies a vertical action while 'against' implies a horizontal one, that's why I'm at a loss. Does this exact sentence sound weird/unnatural to you? @user3169 – Yukatan Dec 11 '14 at 17:57
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    @Yukatan It really depends on how I comprehend the statement in my mind. In this example I think the possibility would exist that he fell over (really sort of a diagonal movement) against the wall, so it would not strike me as wrong. But in other examples it might not make sense. – user3169 Dec 11 '14 at 18:02
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    I think the meaning of the sentence (and its understanding) rely on the reader to visualise that a person falling will often topple or crumple - not fall like a rock, for example. Think of a drunk person falling against a wall. – DaveP Dec 11 '14 at 18:39

To 'fall against' something, in my experience as a speaker of American English, means to stumble or topple or lean into it, not to crash headlong into it when moving with velocity on a bike or in a vehicle, say. If we understand the statement to mean that he toppled over on his bike against the wall, then it is OK, I think. There is also the possibility that 'fall against' may be used in ways that are unfamiliar to me.

She accidentally fell against the stage curtain while pretending to be tipsy.

The car struck the streetlamp and the streetlamp fell against the shop window.

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    Agreed, for a fast collision I would say that someone crashed into a wall or ran into a wall. Note that for ran into you don't have to be running on your feet, you could be moving fast by driving a car or riding a bicycle. – Jason Patterson Dec 11 '14 at 18:23

Google "tree falls against a house" and look at the images to see something of idea of how something "falls against" something. There is a difference between how a tree, or person, usually falls and how a rock dropped from my hand would fall. The latter will fall straight down, and it would be a bit wierd to say it "fell against" something. However a tree tends to fall over sideways (as indeed it is already on the ground at the base, it is only the tall trunk that needs to fall) and if in doing so it runs into something like a house. I choose a tree as a stark example, but people similarly often fall over somewhat sideways and may well fall "against" something.

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  • Seeing is believing! – Damkerng T. Dec 12 '14 at 3:06
  • probably the problem for me with visualising a person 'falling against a wall' is that as a rule a wall is 'any high vertical surface, especially one that is imposing in scaleэб Шэму got no problem with that example of yours of a tree - I can the way that it 'falls against a wall' it clearly @user13673 – Yukatan Dec 12 '14 at 5:32

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