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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Prepositions     



Dear colleagues, I need your help. I´┐Żve come across such an amazing sentence and got confused by the usage of prepositions. The amount of water absorbed by cotton wool is greater than that OF paper. Is it possible to use by? If not, why? Thank you a lot.

9 Jun 2019      

United Kingdom

I think native speakers could use "by" but I must say, it does not sound very elegant. If a full "than the amount absorbed by water," were used, it would sound better. "Than that of paper," definitely sounds a whole world better, to me. An interesting little sentence, though, when you think about it.

10 Jun 2019     

United Kingdom

I┤ve been thinking about this, so glad Spinney has answered and I agree. I think the ┤of┤ is certainly right and I think it┤s understood that it is referring to the capacity of the paper. To make the by work, you should say absorbed by. But I don´┐Żt think it would frighten the horses if you didn´┐Żt.

10 Jun 2019     


Thank you so much for your comments. They are really helpful. I┤ve been thinking about it for quite a long time. The problem for me was to explain the ┤of┤ to my curious students who had asked me why it was used. The only thing that I could think of was that the pronoun ┤that┤ is used instead of ┤the amount┤. However, since the sentence was not complete I was not sure... Thanks a million for your support :)

10 Jun 2019     

United States

In this sentence, `that` is replacing "The amount of water absorbed by". Saying `that` of water is a shortcut--a quicker way to express the same idea. As Spinney said, you can use the full phrase again if you want to use `by`. "The amount of water absorbed by cotton wool is greater than the amount absorbed by paper," is an equally good sentence.

You should not say "...than that by paper", but you can say "...than that absorbed by paper." If you do this, the word `that` is replacing "the amount". Replacing phrases is one of the uses of the pronoun `that`.

11 Jun 2019