I have a question about the usage of the verb "surround". The following seems to be standard English:

  1. Mystery surrounded the questionable transaction.

Could I then write these:

  1. A lot of risks surrounded the transaction.
  2. A lot of benefits surrounded the transaction.

as standard English?


Mystery perceived as a kind of cloud or shroud can be said to surround something. Risks and benefits don't have the same conventional connotations or figurative associations. It's grammatical, but it probably wouldn't get you a job writing for The Economist.

For example, you could say:

The transaction was shrouded in mystery.

But you couldn't really say

The transaction was shrouded in benefits.

For the statement to make sense, the agent has to be perceived to be capable, if only figuratively, of performing the action specified by the verb, and the usage must not overturn the applecart of convention, unless that is the very aim of the strange usage, as it might be in a literary or ironic/parodic context.

  • So, this: "An increased recognition of the many (and expanding) types of risk that surround and threaten financial firms and an explanation of how risk can be measured and managed", would be wrong? – meatie Jan 19 '16 at 2:35
  • "Wrong" is an overstatement; "surround" is just not the best choice of figurative verb there. It really adds nothing to that sentence. One could simply write "...the many types of risk that threaten financial firms..." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 19 '16 at 9:23
  • Also, do types "expand"? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jan 19 '16 at 9:24

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