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Reply to "withholding vital information "from""

Let's try this again, deepcosmos. I'll keep in mind that your interest is purely theoretical, since you say you already understand the constructions. Having carefully reread your opening post, however, I question whether you really do understand what you say you understand. Interpretation (1) is actually wrong:

@deepcosmos posted:

While I have a single sentence quoted from Longman dictionary - “She was accused of withholding vital information from the police.”, which interpretation is correct in following two?;

1. She was accused of holding back vital information which was received from the police.
(= She was accused of refusing to give someone vital information which was received from the police.)

2. She was accused of holding back vital information against the police.
(= she tried to keep vital information against the police.)
(= she tried not to deliver vital information to the police.)

I think no.1 will be correct and the function of “from“ in ‘withholding something from someone’ is different from the ”from“ of following patterns – ‘stop, keep, prohibit ~ from ~ing’.

When I quickly endorsed your interpretation (1), I dismissed from my mind your awkward phrasing. Now that I have more time to ponder your perplexity, I see that you have missed the meaning entirely with (1). Although your interpretation is theoretically possible, the context makes it ludicrous.

The problem with your interpretation (1) is that it parses the "from"-PP as an NP adjunct, that is, as a modifier of "information." You are saying that you think "She withheld information from the police" means that she withheld certain information, namely, information (that came) from the police!

That is not what the construction means at all, though of course it is possible to imagine that meaning. If you want the real meaning, though, the "from"-PP in the "withhold NP1 from NP2" is a complement within the VP, just as it is in the "keep NP from VP-ing" and "stop NP from VP-ing" constructions.

What difference does the syntax make to the proper interpretation of meaning? It makes a world of difference. She didn't hold back information that came from the police. What she did was to hold herself back from giving certain information to the police! She prevented the information from reaching them.

@deepcosmos posted:

I've known the difference between two and the point of my last question was if the two 'from's themselves belong to the same category (meaning) or not.

I would summarize what I've learned so far as follows;

1. The 'from' in "she withheld something from them" means 'not to' (to as preposition)'.

2. The 'from' in "she prohibited them from doing something" means 'what is prevented, or the object  prevented'.

OK, your interpretation (2) is fine; indeed, you can actually replace "She prohibited them from doing X" with "She prohibited their doing X." As to (1), your "not to" hypothesis is OK purely from a semantic standpoint. BUT PLEASE NOTE: YOU CANNOT REPLACE "FROM" WITH "NOT TO." If you do, you will produce unintelligible garbage, just as you did in your third post above.

When you do your "not to" business, therefore, it is important to realize that you are just thinking about semantics, not about a substitution that can actually be used in these "from"-constructions. The "to" is equivalent to an arrow, semantically speaking, just as in the grammar book excerpt below.


Lindstromberg, Seth. English Prepositions Explained. Amsterdam: John                               Benjamins Publishing Company, 2010.


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Last edited by David, Moderator