distressed by / with / at

Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
Hello,

I'm doing the following exercise:
3. Complete the sentences with the correct particle.
[There is a selection of particles, among them: by, with, at.]
6 The group was very distressed _____ the news that the river dolphin is now presumed to be extinct.
The key: by.
Spotlight on CAE
, Student's Book, p. 140

I think all of them may work. Is it true? What would be the differences between them?
I think that:
[1] The group was very distressed by the news that the river dolphin is now presumed to be extinct.
treats 'distressed' more like a past participle, so 'the news' is the 'agent' and 'the group' is the 'patient', sort of. 'By' concentrates more on the agent.

[2] The group was very distressed with the news that the river dolphin is now presumed to be extinct.
'distressed' is also a past participle here, but this time 'the news' is more like a 'tool', so 'with' underlines more the agency or use of the new to distress the group.

[3] The group was very distressed at the news that the river dolphin is now presumed to be extinct.
this time 'distressed' is an adjective and 'at' focuses more on the cause of the distress.

Would that be about right?


Thank you,
T.
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The one I would not use is with, which seems to me to be rather uncommon. Otherwise your analysis of distressed as a passive participle or adjective seems fine.
     
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