He's friends with her.

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He's friends with her.

Post by PhilHunt » Thu Nov 29, 2012 1:19 pm

A student of mine pointed out the strangeness of the following sentence, "he's friends with her".
She asked why the plural noun was used with a singular verb. To my mind it is because of the implied complementary relationship (They are both friends), but it led me to think; why can't this be done with other nouns in such a construction?
For example, the following would sound incorrect:

He's brothers with him.
She's lovers with him.


However, I'm unsure as to whether the following would be incorrect or not:

He's students with her.
She's colleagues with him.


Does anyone have any views or advice on this?
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:13 pm

All except the 'friends' variant are distinctly non-standard. However, I have no theory to explain why 'friends' is different to the others.
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:53 pm

I'm sure I've come across 'mates with', and it exists on the Internet, but it's probably mimicry.

The unusualness of the syntax affords it ('friends with') idiomatic status in the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. It's certainly ill-formed.

Perhaps it's a conversion from friendly with. Via in cahoots with. And then make friends with. And Shergar and Red Rum.

If we can extend the pronoun-replacement test to link verbs:

"He's a Mirbanian, you know."

"Are you sure he's one?"

friends with fails spectacularly:

"He's friends with Driftwood, you know!"

*"Are you sure he's them with him?"

Make friends with also fails this test, and some would argue that it's best not to consider it as a verb + direct object + the with part of a with-phrase but a three-word verb synonymous with befriend.

But there is a slight degree of flexibility - "best of friends with" is also used.

I'm planning on sneaking a few 'enemies with's and then an 'arch-enemies with' or two into the public domain in the near future. I seem to remember having done the former a while back.
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:55 am

Ed sed:

I'm sure I've come across 'mates with', and it exists on the Internet, but it's probably mimicry.
.. why is it mimicry anymore than any other "he's X with Y .. but that construction is common in Australia probably because we use mate so much more intently .. also >> partners, pals, team mates, colleagues (?), buddies all work ..

.. these words all share the quality of having a social relationship with the person ..

WoZ who is cobs with Bob
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:07 pm

He's mates with. He is pals with. Perfectly reasonable. In fact, "Chums with" used to be an option, but with the meaning of "chum" changing the was it has, I suppose we will hear even less of it in the future.
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:30 pm

Wizard of Oz wrote:Wiz sed:

.. why is it mimicry anymore than any other "he's X with Y ..
Indeed - I'd say that the related expressions you list are probably all formed by deliberate or perhaps subconscious echoing of what was almost certainly the first to appear - didn't you call this process snowcloning?*

He's useless with children will require a different analysis.


* On the SW US National Parks Hol Catherine and I were privileged to go on, the tour guide was bemoaning the advent of the digital camera and the fact that rank amateurs could now produce half-decent images (he'd been a semi-pro photographer in a different era): "It's not proper photography - when you can get your computer and totally change what you actually saw. You don't have to be professional anymore."

To which Peter (who seemed able to operate a still camera and a camcorder simultaneously in his quest for the moths of Utah) replied: "Digital is the new professional."
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Dec 01, 2012 6:47 am

.. Ed I didn't know it snowed in Utah !!

WoZ who has gone digital
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:02 am

The Clone Ranger's from even further south.
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by PhilHunt » Sat Dec 01, 2012 12:16 pm

I've found a few interesting variations which I think support the argument that they are all extensions or 'mimicry' of 'they are friends' that Edwin put forward.

We would never say:
1) "He is brothers with him."

..but we might say:
2) "He was blood-brothers with him."

In fact, I have found a few examples of 2) being used. The more standard form would, or course, be 'he was a blood-brother with him', but the non-standard 2) does not grate the ears as much as example 1). This suggests a psychological acceptance of the 'is friends' usage even if it is not technically acceptable.
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Dec 01, 2012 12:28 pm

Phil, I think a similar case can be made in UK English for:

*He was buddies with her
He was best buddies with her


I think both forms would be accepted in the USA.
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Re: He's friends with her.

Post by hsargent » Sun Dec 02, 2012 1:18 am

Is there an implied difference...


He is friends with her.

vs.

He is a friend of her's.

Look how the possessive came in to play and the preposition had to change. The first is referring to a group of friends and the second is one on one.
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