The original sentences are as follow [emphasis supplied]:

"The obsessive desire that often accompanies passionate love can degrade affection, ..., and sharing the life of another. It is the diametric opposite of altruistic love. It arises from egocentrism that merely cherishes itself in the other or, worse still, seeks to forge its own happiness at the other's expense."

Can I use "from" or "at" in replace of "in"? And why? As a Taiwanese, I intend to use "from", however it is clearly not right. Please tell me why?

  • 1
    There is not really any reason behind a lot of how we use prepositions, particularly when using them for abstract concepts. At is definitely wrong here. If you used from I wouldn't be able to understand what you're trying to say. Even with in, the meaning is pretty opaque, but at least it sounds like the kind of thing that gets said in academic papers. – The Photon Jul 12 '16 at 4:01
  • thank you for your comment, I agree that prepositions sometimes follows no rule, it is really difficult for an Asian to learn English!!! – Jay Tsai Jul 12 '16 at 5:53

The only preposition you could properly use here is "in". To understand why, you need to understand what that part of the sentence means -

It arises from egocentrism that merely cherishes itself in the other...

There are two parts to this. The clause before "that" means "obsessive desire is due to egocentrism".

The second clause uses "that" as a relative pronoun to represent "egocentrism". If you turned this clause into a sentence on its own, it would be:

Egocentrism merely cherishes itself in the other.

This sentence expresses a quite complex concept. To put it in overly simple terms, it means that the person loves themself (egocentrism), and what seems to be passion for the other person is really just a way of loving themself even more. They see their own ego reflected in the other person. Even more, the locus of this "cherishing" (a very strong word for "loving") is within the other person.

The preposition "in" is therefore the right word to use here. If necessary, it could be replaced by "within" to emphasise where the "cherishing" takes place.

  • 1
    thank you very much for your analyzing, it does help! now I know the reason for using "in", is because the locus that cherishing takes place is "in" the other! – Jay Tsai Jul 12 '16 at 13:04
  • @Jay Tsai I've thought about this question today and still can't quite pin down a good answer for you. But I do think you should not try to be so logical and literal. I realize it's hard to learn a language and I completely understand why you're seeking an answer. Personally I just don't think this explanation is one that nails it. Still I don't think it's anything to worry about nor am I inclined to say that's even good writing that you quoted. – shawnt00 Jul 13 '16 at 3:41
  • @shawnt00 thank you for your appreciation, I also love the quote very much. Actually, I can't really enjoy the meaning before everyone comment or answer the question. I am not going to dig in the grammar, all I want is to appreciate the beauty of western literature, that requires certain level of grammar ability. I am going to ask more questions anytime I encounter a problem, and thanks all you guys are so kind. – Jay Tsai Jul 14 '16 at 15:20

'in' is used in the sentence because the writer talks about how an individual overcome with egocentrism would tend to seek out and obsess over what pleases him in/through his partner. As in trying to find what you most desire or what most defines your tastes 'in' your partner.

  • thank you for your example sentence, it helps me to comprehend the scenario of the sentences! – Jay Tsai Jul 12 '16 at 13:09

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