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I have a question about phrases like this one:

John pushed Jane against the wall.

The verb push refers to an active state of movement

push down the street

the preposition against implies a stationary state

the ladder against the wall

So the phrase

pushed Jane against

is contradictory to me about motion.

Would this rewrite:

John pushed Jane toward the wall, and held her against the wall.

which is less contradictory to me have the same meaning?

closed as off-topic by StoneyB, Catija, Omnidisciplinarianist, ColleenV, Varun Nair Dec 31 '15 at 5:43

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    I'm not sure why you think "against" implies a stationary state. "against" can mean "in the direction of and into contact with". – stangdon Dec 30 '15 at 21:00
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    Walls tend to turn movers into stationary objects, so you are pretty close. – lurker Dec 30 '15 at 21:02
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    "The boat was moving against the tide, and moving rather fast, thanks to the newly-installed steam turbine". Natural language is not legalese. Brevity has a great deal of precedence over meticulousness, and is the soul of wit. (0: – CowperKettle Dec 30 '15 at 21:04
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    The rewrite would be more wordy, but not better. – J.R. Dec 30 '15 at 21:06
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is founded upon a misapprehension of the meaning of against. – StoneyB Dec 30 '15 at 22:13
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If the push caused Jane to make contact with the wall, then the initial sentence is correct and would likely be something seen in domestic violence cases where someone is moved to being put adjacent to a boundary.

The rewrite weakens the statement by adding words that don't quite have the same punch, metaphorically speaking. You could say, "John pushed Jane to the wall and pinned her against the wall," though this is pretty close to the original sentence.

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Collision is part of the definition:

Against: in or into physical contact with (something), typically so as to be supported by or collide with it.
(emphasis added)

Thus Jane's collision was caused by John – she was pushed against the wall.

The rewrite is weaker. If Jane was pushed towards the wall, the implication is that she did not hit the wall. If I push Jane against the wall, there is the collision. By changing the wording, you remove that collision, and thus the violent impact. So the sentence feels softer.

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In your example, against means to be in contact with.
Adjacent would only mean next to which may or may not include contact.
Upon would imply on top of.

John obviously pushed Jane until she came in contact with the side of a wall. Whether or not it was against her will and he held her there once she came in contact with the wall could be a topics for discussion, but is usually implicitly assumed.

Not sure why you might think the statement has too much information, if anything, the reader would be intrigued as to what happened next.

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    @meatie not sure how you got a combined meaning. Against is to be in contact with, touching. To be pushed against is to be pushed until coming into contact with, the towards is caused by the pushing in the example given. Usually, two things must be brought together to come into contact, so I suppose one might think there is an implicit towards. It's standard usage by native speakers. – Peter Dec 31 '15 at 7:28
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Try John shoved Jane against the wall. That seems to have even more movement, at least violent movement. There is no problem with shove here. And since shove and push can be synonyms there's not much of a problem with push. A suggested rewrite would include up, as in John pushed Jane up against the wall. This also suggests motion and contact with the wall.

As others have said against does not have to refer to something stationary. He threw the coins against the wall. Yes the wall stops both the coins and Jane, but it's clear that you can push or shove or throw something or someone against a wall, and motion is involved.

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