1. The interference inflicted to the medical devices.
  2. The interference inflicted by the mobile phones.

Now, we provide you with definition of the verb inflict from Macmillan Online Dictionary:

to cause something unpleasant to happen

And Google Ngram result:

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Given to the google result, Is it wrong or odd to use sentences like #1?


You picked the wrong preposition.  That's all. 

To my native ear, "inflicted to the medical devices" sounds nonsensical.  Since you're comparing it to "inflicted by the mobile phones", it looks like you though the preposition "to" would indicate the target of the interference. 

That's a fair guess.  For other verbs, "to" can serve that purpose: "The damage caused to the medical devices" is one example.  However, not every verb uses the same set of prepositions for the same purposes. 

As this ngram shows, "inflicted on" occurs about twice as often as "inflicted by".  That is the natural choice for expressing your intended meaning. 

There is nothing wrong or odd about the notion of "interference inflicted on medical devices by mobile phones".  There's also nothing strange about the notion of "interference caused to medical devices by mobile phones".  The only oddity is that the verb "inflicted" doesn't play nicely with the preposition "to". 

The Macmillan entry that you've cited lists this common pattern of usage directly below its definition:

inflict something on someone/something: the environmental damage we are inflicting on the Earth [emphasis mine] 

  • Many thanks. I came up with this wrong/odd collocations because I saw them in a scientific paper. Perhaps, the editor was not native or meticulous. I think It's a common defect in engineering papers. – Cardinal Jun 13 '16 at 18:33
  • Semantically, interference and inflicted do not play well together. It's like saying "Her meddling was inflicted upon them." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 '16 at 19:15
  • @TRomano Thank you, so do you prefer using interference with cause ? – Cardinal Jun 13 '16 at 19:42
  • Those who have something inflicted upon them (pain, cruelty, malice, etc) are typically sentient creatures who feel and endure that which is inflicted upon them. These devices do not feel and endure interference; they fail or perform poorly because of it. Interference is the name given to unwanted meddling from outside. When a device behaves erratically, we say "That is interference" by which we mean "That behavior is being caused by something outside the device, meddling with its proper functionality". The malfunction is caused by the interference of another thing. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 13 '16 at 20:40
  • @TRomano I don't disagree with the comment about sentience, but the OP's comment mentioned "engineering papers" and it is quite common to use anthropomorphic language in some engineering fields, e.g. to talk about what an electrical device "sees" when "looking into" the input or output of whatever it is connected to. For example "... interference inflicted on a wireless communication device..." in [0026] and [0027] of this patent: google.ch/patents/WO2010129614A1?cl=en – alephzero Jun 13 '16 at 21:43

The are both wrong because neither is a complete sentence. Aside from that, if we suppose that each clause is part of a complete sentence, then 2. should be fine since by indicates the source of the interference. 1. sounds strange. I cannot explain why. Natural sounding pairs in include "inflicted on" and "inflicted upon".

If this is part of some kind of scientific report, I can imagine the clause

the interference caused by the mobile phones

being used. But I am not strongly advocating this. 2. seems good enough.

  • 1
    You are right, I should have written a complete sentence rather a clause. – Cardinal Jun 13 '16 at 18:24

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