afford background to the discussion

dreamlike

Senior Member
Polish
Hi everyone,

I'm in the middle of reading the description of the history of English literatury course at my University and there is this one wording that strikes me as odd:
During three semester course on the History of English literature the students have to read a number of books which afford background to the discussion of the chronological development of literary forms.
source: http://wa.amu.edu.pl/wa/Department_of_English_Literature_and_Literary_Linguistic

It's most certainly using the second meaning of "afford" (I'm quoting from WR dictionary)
2. provide (an opportunity or facility).

Google's ngram yields several results for "afford background" in the sense of "provide with the background information" but I can't be sure of the validity of the sources.
What do you make of it? Does it sound fine, however very formal, to you?
 
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  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, 'afford' is used with all sorts of objects. It is rather literary or formal; we'd be unlikely to say it. Here's a top tip to help you see the variety of usage: in its vastly more common monetary meaning, 'afford' always comes after some form of 'can', so the inflected forms 'affords' and 'afforded' give you the meaning "provide", which is otherwise swamped by the common meaning.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks, Entangledbank.

    I have no difficulty whatsoever telling the difference between its vastly more common monetary meaning (nicely put!) and otherwise. I simply thought, mistakenly it would seem, that the wording in question doesn't really sound natural. It's the very few google instances that led me to believe that. That and my being hell-bent on finding mistakes in my professors' pieces of writing :D
     
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