I am just practising some english grammar related questions.

Question: Identify the one bold word or phrase that must be changed in order for the sentence to be correct.

Newtonian physics accounts from the observation of the orbits of the planets and moons.

A) accounts

B) from

C) observation

D) orbits

Its correct answer is "B) from". But why should we select "from" as wrong word that must be changed to "for" in order for the sentence to be correct. what's the logic or rule behind it?

1 Answer 1


Accounts has to be the verb in this sentence, because there's no other word that could play that role. And account from is not idiomatic English: it doesn't mean anything at all.

Account for, however, is standard idiom: to account for something is to give an adequate account or explanation of it.

As FumbleFingers points out, however, the observation wants changing, too. What Newtonian physics gives an adequate account of is not the (repeated) act of observing the orbits, but what is observed. In current use that might be expressed (somewhat loosely, but adequately) with the plural:

Newtonian physics accounts for observations of the orbits of the planets and moons.

And since what is observed and what is accounted for is in fact the orbits themselves, demoting observe to an adjectival participle would be even better:

Newtonian physics accounts for the observed orbits of the planets and moons.

  • I'm far from convinced the sentence makes sense even with from changed to for. It doesn't seem likely that Newtonian mechanics itself (or even knowledge of the principles involved) would either have caused the observations to be made, or explain why they were made. What Newtonian mechanics accounts for is the results of those observations, not the observations themselves. Oct 4, 2015 at 14:14
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    @FumbleFingers You're entirely right. I'm gonna steal that. Oct 4, 2015 at 14:30
  • I like your "two-stage" fix. The second version is definitely much better than the first, but I can't quite put my finger on why pluralizing observations makes it capable of standing in for results of observations (which OP's singular version doesn't really seem able to do this). Perhaps it's connected to the fact that you can say ...which accounts for the observation of canals on Mars because making that observation proves there are [things that look like] canals, which might otherwise be in dispute. But no-one's disputing that planets & moons do actually have orbits. Oct 4, 2015 at 15:33
  • @FumbleFingers Inter alia, singular observation taken to represent the result would imply a single result, a single datum--hardly something from which one could deduce the entire Newtonian system! We're pretty much compelled to take observation as the activity. But plural observations accommodates lots of data, and is consequently friendlier to the resultative reading. Oct 4, 2015 at 15:41
  • I thought we were supposed to accept that Newton himself deduced the whole thing from the singular (to him, at least! :) observation that the apple in the tree over his head must always fall down, rather than drift sideways or float up to the heavens. But putting that aside, I'm pretty sure Newtonian mechanics doesn't fully account for the internal dynamics of the solar system. I'm sure Einstein made some relevant prediction based on the later theory of relativity (a prediction subsequently confirmed by observation, without which his theory would have been dead in the water). Oct 4, 2015 at 15:51

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