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Does the preposition 'with' sound redundant to you in the following self-made sentence or not? If yes, why?

  • Those two countries fought with each other for eight years.
11

fight can be transitive (requiring an object) or intransitive (not requiring an object). Examples of the transitive form (with the object highlighted) are:

He fought the disease bravely for three years
We need the public's help in fighting crime.

The intransitive form can be

The soldiers fought from house to house
They fought to the bitter end.

here is a sentence where with is used to mean alongside:

Germany fought with the English and the Dutch against the French.

Looking at NGram, we see that fought Germany > fought against Germany > fought with Germany.

So, all of these sentences are valid:

1) Those two countries fought for eight years. intransitive: it doesn't say who they are fighting, maybe each other maybe somebody else
2) Those two countries fought each other for eight years. transitive: they are definitely fighting each other
3) Those two countries fought with each other for eight years. intransitive: they could be fighting alongside each other or against each other
4) Those two countries fought against each other for eight years. intransitive: they are definitely fighting against each other

So, 2 and 4 are unambiguous, and 2 is probably my preferred option: this is backed up by Ngram. 1 and 3 are grammatically correct, and could be used in a context where it is understood who was fighting whom.

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6

As a native speaker, I find that "fight" seems to imply a single discrete incident, like "a fight", while "fight with" indicates a series of incidents. But be careful; there is ambiguity that depends on context for the correct meaning.

For instance, if I say I fought my neighbor, one might reasonably conclude we got in a fist fight-- one instance. However, if I say I fought with my neighbor, that implies we had a series of arguments, disagreements, shouting matches, etc. over a period of time, but probably not a bout of physical violence.

If you're talking about two boxers, you would say that they fought at one match they had. But, if you're talking about several matches, you might say, "Joe Lewis fought with Max Schmeling in the 30s". You could also say, "They fought in the 30s", meaning more than one match. But, you cannot say "Joe Lewis fought with Max Schmeling at the match last night"-- there was a single discrete bout, not several fights that happened at a boxing match.

Likewise you can say that France and Germany fought in WWII-- all of the military conflicts throughout the war as counted as a single instance of conflict: the duration of the war, from declaration to treaty. You can say that France and GB fought with each other during WWII-- that means that they had disagreements with each other about how to accomplish the goals. But to say that GB "fought with" Germany during WWII is too weak-- they didn't have a series of scuffles; they were engaged in a military conflict that was going to last until one side surrendered. They fought in WWII.

Also note there is a meaning of "fight with" that means "fight alongside", as allies. For instance, the US fought with GB during WWII, or, "He's a good man; I fought with him in Vietnam". But this is ambiguous, probably better to use a word or phrase that more indicates allegiance.

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3

I think omission of with changes the meaning slightly.

Those two countries fought with each other for eight years.

Fighting with generally means argumentatively, sometimes not so seriously.

It is common to say things like:

I fought with my brother all my childhood.

I fought with my girlfriend to decide which TV program we would watch.

However if you said:

I fought my girlfriend to decide which TV program we would watch.

I would expect that you used violence to defeat her, so that you could decide. Quite scary!

Conversely,

Those two countries fought each other for eight years.

Without with, it implies a real battle - that the countries sent armies to kill each other's troops. That it was a real fight.

Some examples:

I fought a bully at school.

Two men entered the arena to fight each other.

These are much more serious and violent.

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2

IMO, you require 'with' in your sentence:

Those two countries fought with each other for eight years.

If you don't put 'with', then you cannot put 'each other', because IMO, we cannot write 'fought each other' for two countries. So the sentence will be like this:

Those two countries fought for eight years.

Here, we cannot find out whether they fought among themselves (or say, between each other) or fought equally (for eight years) with other countries.

'With each other' clarifies the aspect, and therefore, it is not redundant in your sentence.

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  • 6
    I see absolutely no problem with "fought each other". "With" actually makes the sentence more ambiguous, since "with" could mean either "against" or "alongside". – GalacticCowboy Jul 29 '16 at 13:59

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