fall (over) in a puddle

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Ruzanna

Senior Member
Russian
Hello

Tell me please, are fall over in a puddle and fall in a puddle the same in meaning?
Or this "over" changes something?
 
  • meepmeep

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Hello

    I would say "fall in a puddle" or "fall over, into a puddle", as in She fell in a puddle./She fell over, into a puddle. May be just me, but I think "over" emphasises more the actual action of the subject falling. :)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The two examples mean different things (four meanings are possible), and there is probably a mistake (or poor use) in both. Perhaps Ruzanna can give a full sentence and explain what she actually means. :thumbsup:
     

    Ruzanna

    Senior Member
    Russian
    In a book it was written this way: we all laughed, though, when my dad fell over in a puddle, but he didn't think it was very funny.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    With no additional information, it would seem that he was standing in a puddle, and then he fell over. Here "over" is not a preposition; he didn't fall over a submerged stone, for example, but he just collapsed.
     
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    Ruzanna

    Senior Member
    Russian
    It is from the FCE book, preparation for Cambridge First Certificate of English.
    There is a short text, an exercise where we are to opt for the correct answer, the correct word choice. But I just noticed this phrase and wanted to know why "over" is used.
    The family went to a campsite on holiday and they complain about this holiday as it rained almost every day and then comes this sentence.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The sentence is badly written.

    Over means completely; to the ground; all the way; to the end; not partly.

    my dad fell over in a puddle -> my dad fell to the ground whilst he was in a puddle.

    If you wish to indicate that "my dad" finished his fall in a puddle but was outside the puddle when his fall started, you would say, "my dad fell over into a puddle."
     

    Ruzanna

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The sentence is badly written.

    Over means completely; to the ground; all the way; to the end; not partly.

    my dad fell over in a puddle -> my dad fell to the ground whilst he was in a puddle.
    Why is the sentence badly written? What's the mistake?
    It was written this way by the author. There was not any word choice.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Why is the sentence badly written? What's the mistake?
    I added a line to my post before I read your question.

    The writer has been ambiguous. The writer probably means that his father fell into a puddle. BUT in the way that it is written, we wonder why a puddle is mentioned as the writer wrote "in". Into is a preposition of motion and in is a preposition of place. Into tells you where he went and in tells you where he was when it happened.

    So now there are four possibilities:
    He was outside the puddle and fell into it
    He was inside the puddle and fell into it
    He was in the puddle and fell outside of it.
    He was inside the puddle and we do not know where he landed.
     

    Bondstreet

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Interesting. As said above, there are several possible meanings, and all slightly different - taking your #1 examples first:

    (1) "fall over in a puddle" = he falls over while he is already in the puddle.

    (2) "fall in a puddle" literally means the same - he falls over while he is already in the puddle.

    (3) "fall inTO a puddle" = he falls over as he approaches the puddle, and consequently falls into it.


    >> #4: In a book it was written this way: we all laughed, though, when my dad fell over in a puddle, but he didn't think it was very funny.

    >> #7: The family went to a campsite on holiday and they complain about this holiday, as it rained almost every day...

    >> #1: does this "over" change something?

    (4) "fell over in a puddle" - "in" suggests that he was already in the puddle when he fell. "over" emphasises that the fall was quite sharp - perhaps during the rainy weather you mention, the father was walking through the puddle in waterproof boots (for example, Wellington boots), and his foot hit a submerged stone, and so he tripped "over" into the water.
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    With no additional information, it would seem that he was standing in a puddle, and then he fell over. Here "over" is not a preposition; he didn't fall over a submerged stone, for example, but he just collapsed.
    Does "He fall over a stone" mean "He fall down on a stone" or "the stone cause him to fall and then he fall down on the ground", please?
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    I would take it to mean that the stone caused his fall = He tripped over a stone.
    Sorry Uncle Jack, I read in the quote below:
    I'd only say "I fell over" if I fell over [something big]. "I fell over [a cliff], but somehow survived." If I fell over [something small], I would say "I tripped over [the log]".

    Do you agree with this? That thing that you fall over should be a big thing, please?
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    If you say "He fell over." as a complete sentence, it means they were in an upright position, stumbled and finished up horizontal or at least NOT standing upright (they might have managed to prevent falling over completely).

    If you "fall over [something]", that something is likely to be big, because something small is less likely to make you fall over completely.
    eg She fell over the cliff. But here the important thing is that they are falling over the cliff - whether they are upright, or upside down, or flailing around, is immaterial.

    If you say someone "fell into a hole in the ground", it indicates that they unintentionally dropped from ground level to somewhere lower, and probably finished up not standing - but again the important thing is dropping unintentionally into the hole. If it was deliberate, we would probably say they "jumped into the hole in the ground". Or, they might have been "pushed into the hole in the ground" by an attacker.

    If there was a small rock on the ground, or an unexpected step in the path, you might say:
    She tripped over the step.
    He tripped on a stone sticking out of the ground.
    The president stumbled while coming down the aircraft steps.
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Do you agree with this? That thing that you fall over should be a big thing, please?
    No, I wouldn't make the distinction. Certainly you cannot trip over a cliff, but "fall over" doesn't sound quite right either.

    "Fall over" is usually intransitive, meaning to fall down more or less flat on the ground, a phrasal verb, as Edinburgh says in post #8.

    Where it is apparently being used transitively, you have to decide, does it still have the meaning of "fall over" (phrasal verb) but with an object, or is it "fall" with a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb.

    It seems entirely possible to me for "fall over" to be used transitively*. The person ended up more or less flat on the ground and the object of the verb is what caused this to happen, and I see nothing at all wrong with "I fell over a stone". However, this does not really work for "I fell over a cliff", because the person has done something considerably worse than merely falling over. With someone falling over a cliff, "over" has to be a preposition.

    What, then, does "over" mean? The obvious preposition would be to say that the person fell off a cliff; alternatively you could say they fell from a cliff. I find it hard to see why anyone would use "over a cliff". However, I suppose "over" would be fine with "run" - a person could run over a cliff if they did not stop when they reached the edge, so I suppose they could fall over a cliff with "over" having the same meaning, but I cannot say I particularly like it.

    *This is not supported by OED, which lists it only as an intransitive phrasal verb. However, OED also doesn't have any quotes supporting falling over cliffs, or anything of a similar nature.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    The obvious preposition would be to say that the person fell off a cliff;
    :thumbsup:
    But it's common to use "fall over a cliff edge".
    Example:
    "...it will spend years as part of a transition ... making sure the economy doesn’t fall over a cliff-edge."
    (Source: qz.com)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    :thumbsup:
    But it's common to use "fall over a cliff edge".
    Example:
    "...it will spend years as part of a transition ... making sure the economy doesn’t fall over a cliff-edge."
    (Source: qz.com)
    Yes, that clearly has the same meaning as running over the edge of a cliff. It is fine in this figurative use, but I cannot think of it being very common where a person has literally fallen off the edge of a cliff.
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    No, I wouldn't make the distinction. Certainly you cannot trip over a cliff, but "fall over" doesn't sound quite right either.

    "Fall over" is usually intransitive, meaning to fall down more or less flat on the ground, a phrasal verb, as Edinburgh says in post #8.

    Where it is apparently being used transitively, you have to decide, does it still have the meaning of "fall over" (phrasal verb) but with an object, or is it "fall" with a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb.

    It seems entirely possible to me for "fall over" to be used transitively*. The person ended up more or less flat on the ground and the object of the verb is what caused this to happen, and I see nothing at all wrong with "I fell over a stone". However, this does not really work for "I fell over a cliff", because the person has done something considerably worse than merely falling over. With someone falling over a cliff, "over" has to be a preposition.

    What, then, does "over" mean? The obvious preposition would be to say that the person fell off a cliff; alternatively you could say they fell from a cliff. I find it hard to see why anyone would use "over a cliff". However, I suppose "over" would be fine with "run" - a person could run over a cliff if they did not stop when they reached the edge, so I suppose they could fall over a cliff with "over" having the same meaning, but I cannot say I particularly like it.

    *This is not supported by OED, which lists it only as an intransitive phrasal verb. However, OED also doesn't have any quotes supporting falling over cliffs, or anything of a similar nature.
    I didn't know "over" can be a preposition and part of the phrasal verb.
    Thank you Uncle Jack for the excellent explanation!

    :thumbsup:
    But it's common to use "fall over a cliff edge".
    Example:
    "...it will spend years as part of a transition ... making sure the economy doesn’t fall over a cliff-edge."
    (Source: qz.com)
    Thank you!
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    If you say "He fell over." as a complete sentence, it means they were in an upright position, stumbled and finished up horizontal or at least NOT standing upright (they might have managed to prevent falling over completely).
    So here "fall over" is "fall + preposition (over)" not the phrasal verb "fall over", right, please?
     
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