afraid <of> dogs

Curiosity777

Senior Member
Korean
Does the prepostion 'of' have not any meaning at all, and just connect two words?

I am so curious about the preposition 'of' in that it looks not having any meaning when used in sentence.
And I've seen that it has not any meaning on an English site.
Is it really true that 'of' just connects two words?
However, for me when two words are connected by 'of' the two words seem to have something to do with each other.
 
  • Curiosity777

    Senior Member
    Korean
    For example, I am afraid of dogs. In this sentence 'of' just connects the two words, afraid and dogs? If so, What factor does 'of' link?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I am afraid dogs.
    I am frightened dogs.

    I fear dogs.
    I am afraid of dogs.
    I am frightened of/by dogs.

    "Of" is essential there. I see it as similar to "by" that's used in the passive: I am afraid/affeared of dogs/I am affrighted by dogs/dogs make me afraid.

    That's just my personal take on it, but I'm no specialist. I'm sure scholars must have published papers on this kind of construction, if this is something you are especially interested in.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In this use of "of", compare these three sentences:

    1. I am afraid and dogs are afraid.
    2. I am afraid of dogs.
    3. Dogs are afraid of me.

    These sentences have very different meanings. The "of" does not just connect two things: it connects them in a certain way.

    The most common use for "of" connects two words with a "possess", "own", or "part of" relationship. In grammar we call this "genitive" and express it with "of", with an apostrophe, or with a possessive pronouns (my, your, his, hers)

    book of Bill = Bill's book = book that Bill owns
    book of mine = book that I own = my book
    base of a statue = a statue's base = a statue part (the part at the bottom)
    front of a building = a building's front = a building part (the part in the front)
     

    Curiosity777

    Senior Member
    Korean
    What is the difference between both sentences?

    1.I am afraid of dogs.
    2.I am afraid for dogs.

    I know that 'afraid for' is used very rarely, even so I want to learn what is the difference.

    I think that 'of' in the 1 emphasize that the factors (ex: the growling sounds or the pointed teeth) of dogs scare me, but other than that 'for' in the 2 emphasize that the dogs in themselves scare me.

    Is it right?
     
    Last edited:

    AutumnOwl

    Senior Member
    -
    Swedish
    To me the "I'm afraid for (the) dogs" means that you are worried that something will happen to the dogs, not that you are afraid of them.
     

    Curiosity777

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I agree to your opinion.
    Now that I know the difference.

    And what about this ?
    I am afraid of dogs for willing to bite me.
    I am afraid of dogs to bite me.
    Do both sentences make sense?
     
    I agree to your opinion.
    Now that I know the difference.

    And what about this ?
    I am afraid of dogs for willing to bite me.
    I am afraid of dogs to bite me.
    Do both sentences make sense?
    Neither sentence is grammatical.

    Here are some alternatives.
    I'm afraid of dogs because they bite.
    I'm afraid of dogs biting me.
    I'm afraid of dogs because they seem eager to bite me.
     
    NOTE: The case of afraid is not best for the issue of whether 'of' is necessary--with verb and direct object.

    I took of his secret stash of cigarettes and sold hundreds of them.

    The deletion of 'of' suggests the whole stash was taken, although it's possible with 'of' included.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Is it really true that 'of' just connects two words?
    However, for me when two words are connected by 'of' the two words seem to have something to do with each other.
    That is an simplified view.

    I'm afraid of dogs can be considered as [I'm afraid] of [dogs.] To be afraid is an intransitive phrasal verb meaning "to fear" (which is transitive) and "to be afraid" has a collocated preposition -> of.

    Of always has some nuance of "associated with", either strongly ("He is the owner of the car") or relatively weakly ("It smells of oranges.")

    Of
    is simply a preposition and performs a similar function to all other prepositions. A preposition has a noun (or other nominal) as an object. The preposition shows the relationship between the verb and the noun that is the proposition's object.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    NOTE: The case of afraid is not best for the issue of whether 'of' is necessary--with verb and direct object.

    I took of his secret stash of cigarettes and sold hundreds of them.

    The deletion of 'of' suggests the whole stash was taken, although it's possible with 'of' included.
    There are many uses of "of". I'm sure the OP chose "afraid of..." because there is no obvious meaning for "of" there.

    "I take of" something is barely grammatical in today's English, but "of" does approach the meaning "from", or it can be seen as a version of "some of..." (some of/from the whole).
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    There are many uses of "of". I'm sure the OP chose "afraid of..." because there is no obvious meaning for "of" there.
    The idea of "associated with" is there

    "I take of" something is barely grammatical in today's English, but "of" does approach the meaning "from", or it can be seen as a version of "some of..." (some of/from the whole).
    The "from" idea is tempting but it usually occurs because the verb has some idea of movement1 - for me, this is misleading - "I took some of the apples" -> "I took some quantity belonging (that was attributed) to the apples."

    1This is found in names: "Robin of Loxley" is often understood as ""Robin from Loxley", but that is because in Loxley, Robin of Loxley was known as "Robin" and only when he was in other towns, or referred to in narration did he become "of Loxley" - thus giving the idea of movement. However, I suggest that "Robin of Loxley" -> Robin who is associated, by birth, with Loxley.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In line with other comments above, this is how I see "of" in this context.

    I am afraid of dogs.

    Of
    4. resulting from, caused by, or in connection with:
    English Only

    Therefore, I am afraid of dogs = My fear is /caused by/results from/is connected with dogs.

    "Of" encapsulates those meanings, in this context, into one tiny word, which is why it so useful. I believe that "of" and all the other small words in English do usually have a meaning.

    "Of" connects the two elements "I am afraid" and "dogs", because it tells the listener/reader that your fear is caused by, or stems from, dogs.
     
    In line with other comments above, this is how I see "of" in this context.

    I am afraid of dogs.

    Of
    4. resulting from, caused by, or in connection with:
    English Only

    Therefore, I am afraid of dogs = My fear is /caused by/results from/is connected with dogs.

    "Of" encapsulates those meanings, in this context, into one tiny word, which is why it so useful. I believe that "of" and all the other small words in English do usually have a meaning.

    "Of" connects the two elements "I am afraid" and "dogs", because it tells the listener/reader that your fear is caused by, or stems from, dogs.
    It's very tricky. You're suggesting there's a parallel with, "He died of the flu." {cause}. Another possibility, "I'm thinking of you." Not really causal, but 'you' is a sort of intentional object. "I'm bereft of hope."
     
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