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    #1

    Use of the past participle followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with by

    Modern fiction abounds with sentences that employ the derived/prefixed participles such as untouched, unaffected, and undiminished that are qualified by phrases beginning with by. To give you an example:
    FromThe Mirror of the Sea by Conrad, Joseph
    Picturesque and clean as docks go, these twin basins spread side by side the dark lustre of their glassy water, sparely peopled by a few ships laid up on buoys or tucked far away from each other at the end of sheds in the corners of empty quays, where they seemed to slumber quietly remote, untouched by the bustle of men's affairs - in retreat rather than in captivity.
    I think the use of untouched in the above passage is wrong. It should have been instead not touched, the obvious reason being that there is no such verb as untouch.
    In contrast, look at this example:
    FromWar and Peace by Tolstoy, Leo
    The room, dusty and untouched since the death of Joseph Bazdeev was now even gloomier.
    Here the use of untouched is correct.
    A past participle, to which a prefix is added to form its antonym, cannot be followed by a phrase beginning with 'by'. While 'I am touched by the poetry of Keats' and 'I am not touched by the poetry of Keats' are meaningful sentences, when you rewrite the latter sentence as 'I am untouched by the poetry of Keats', it sounds vague and perhaps seems to suggest a mysterious meaning.

    Are there scholarly references dealing with the case in question? I have not been able to locate any. I would appreciate your comments and elucidations on the usage.


    (Quotations, Courtesy of Bloomsbury Treasury of Quotations.)


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    #2

    Re: Use of the past participle followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with by

    "..a few ships ... seemed to slumber quietly remote, untouched by the bustle of men's affairs - in retreat rather than in captivity."

    Break the sentence into two parts:
    "..a few ships ... seemed to slumber quietly remote..."
    "..a few ships ... seemed to slumber untouched by the bustle of men's affairs.

    How is 'untouched' being used as a verb?????

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    #3

    Re: Use of the past participle followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with by

    Hi David,
    Thanks for the response. Permit me to make the following points:

    1. Nowhere have I said that 'untouched' is being used as a verb. In the very opening sentence of my first message, I have classified 'untouched' as a past participle. Further, I have qualified 'untouched' as a derived/prefixed kind of participle functioning as an antonym.

    2. I have contended that there is no such verb as 'untouch'.

    3. Most important, my enquiry pertains to my maintaining that a prepositional phrase beginning with 'by' CANNOT be preceded by words such as 'untouched' and asking for explanations.

    4. To make my case even clearer, let me give you more examples:
    a) I was untouched by the entreaties of the members - WRONG.
    I was untouched despite the entreaties of the members - RIGHT.
    Taking the above to be answers, imagine the question:
    Were you touched by the entreaties of the members?
    You could say either
    I was touched by... or I was not touched by...
    You could not say
    I was untouched by...

    b) Even after taking some treatment (for relief from pain), if you are still suffering, you might say:
    I am not cured by the treatment.
    You CANNOT say:
    I am uncured by the treatment.

    I hope I have lent further clarity to my question.

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    #4

    Re: Use of the past participle followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with by

    Hi David,

    Just one more example.

    Unsettled by the commotion, I lost my concentration - RIGHT

    The above sentence is right, because 'unsettle' is a verb.

    Thanks.
    Vaidy

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