• He backed the car into the garage

  • He backed him into a corner.

The first can dispense with the locative, but the second cannot.

StoneyB has explained the above sentences, however, I cannot get it.

  • Not sure what you mean by "the first can dispense with the locative". To "back something" means to move or position it with its "back" oriented a particular way (explained in the indirect object). In the first case, "the car" is the direct object of the first "back", and "into the garage" is the indirect object. In the second case "him" is the direct object, and "a corner" is the indirect object. – Victor Bazarov Aug 18 '15 at 18:57
  • Both into the garage and into a corner are prepositional phrases telling us into which place the car or 'him' were backed. – Alan Carmack May 13 '16 at 4:30

To back a car into the garage means to put the car's transmission in Reverse, and go into the garage not nose-first but trunk-first.

To back someone into a corner is both a literal and a figurative expression. Literally, it means to step towards a person, aggressively, so that the person must take a step away from you while still looking at you. The person walks backwards. Figuratively, it means to present a logical argument that traps the interlocutor, or to take some action that gives the other person no alternatives.

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  • ... and then the person backs into a corner and can't get out. – Nihilist_Frost Jun 12 '16 at 22:42

I think a verb is "locative" if you can immediately follow it with a prepositional phrase answering the question "where?", and a "locative expression" is a prepositional phrase answering the question "where?".

The first can dispense with the locative, but the second cannot.

Not really. This sounds awkward.

He backed the car.

Back as a verb can mean "to move backward" if a location is specified or it can mean "support" if no location is specified.

Since a car is often backed in to places a listener/reader would assume that's what you meant but it still looks/sounds funny.

The word back can also function as a preposition or adjective identifying a location. Is back is not a verb - back here is a complement describing "where" - but is backing and is backed are verb forms.

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