Scientists recently witnessed the birth a planet the size of Jupiter...

You can find the original article here.

I have two questions:

  1. I think it must be the birth "of" a planet, am I wrong?
  2. I think the sentence needs a preposition before "the size of".

Would you please shed light on grammatical structure of this sentence?

1 Answer 1


This is grammatically incorrect:

...witnessed the birth a planet...

Since it was the birth of something that was witnessed, you need to add of:

...witnessed the birth of a planet...

A preposition before the size of is not necessary:

... a planet the size of Jupiter.

This is an adjective phrase that describes the planet that was being born.

Scientists recently witnessed the birth of a planet the size of Jupiter.

  • So, it is correct to say" an object the size/length/depth/height/X.... of another object". Can any noun be substituted by the X, i.e., "an object the beauty of another object" ?
    – Cardinal
    Dec 13, 2015 at 7:40
  • "An object the size of X" is well used, but "an object with the depth of X", or "A girl with the beauty of the open sky". Maybe because contractions occur with greater usage(?)
    – Peter
    Dec 13, 2015 at 8:57
  • We could fix this sentence another way, by changing the start of it – we could remove the definite article before birth: Scientists recently witnessed a star system birth a planet the size of Jupiter. This usage of birth as a verb would be grammatical, but the preceding "the" found in the original messes that up.
    – J.R.
    Dec 13, 2015 at 10:24
  • @Peter I didn't get your point about "contractions occur with greater usage", would you explain it to me
    – Cardinal
    Dec 13, 2015 at 10:30
  • If one looks at the usage of phrases, the more a phrase is used the faster it tends to evolve (possibly also in meaning). This evolution usually involves a shortening of the phrase for efficiency. This also happens in many other languages. One can imagine the comparison of size: something with the size of, to have been used so many times it became shortened to something the size of. An example in French might be I don't know: Je ne c'est pas which has become shortened to c'est pas (pronounced "shay-pa", mainly in Paris). With extensive usage, an idiom may occur.
    – Peter
    Dec 13, 2015 at 11:18

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