# Thread: surrounded by vs. with

1. ## Re: surrounded by vs. with

Originally Posted by fromatto
This is a magnificently complicated question:

We were surrounded by mountains on all sides.
The village was surrounded by troops.
He was surrounded by fans.

The cake was surrounded with cherries.
He surrounded himself with yes-men.
The jacket was surrounded with a gold trim.

I don't know the answer, but my feeling is that it depends on whether 'what surrounds' is integral to 'what is surrounded'. That is, the cherries are part of the cake. They are integral to it. The yes-men are a necessary adjunct to 'his' self-important personality, and the gold trim forms part of the jacket........but.......

We happened to be surrounded by mountains at that point of our journey. The mountains add nothing to us and are not integral to us. The troops surrounding the village are presumably not there for the duration and will leave when their ominous duty is done. And the fans surrounding him will disperse as soon as he gets into his car and leaves.

'By' indicates a circle around what is surrounded. 'With' indicates that what surrounds forms part of the contour of what is surrounded.
Your hypothesis is very convincing indeed!. I wonder whether there aren't two distinct parameters involved here:

1) The opposition between what is integral and what is not integral - as suggested by you,

2) Whether or not the sentence is in the passive or in the active voice. I notice that they're all in the passive except for "He surrounded himself with yes-men." I was in fact a little bit less convinced by your argument for including it in the "integral" category. Plus, I'm not sure whether with a clause in the active voice one can use the preposition "by" :

He surrounded himself by yes-men.

In any case, as you say, This is a magnificently complicated question.

2. ## Re: surrounded by vs. with

Let's restructure the sentence and see if fromatto's concept works:

Being always surrounded ___ yes-men, the king didn't realize what the real state of things was.

3. ## Re: surrounded by vs. with

Originally Posted by Clark
Let's restructure the sentence and see if fromatto's concept works:

Being always surrounded ___ yes-men, the king didn't realize what the real state of things was.

by

4. ## Re: surrounded by vs. with

Originally Posted by Clark
Let's restructure the sentence and see if fromatto's concept works:

Being always surrounded ___ yes-men, the king didn't realize what the real state of things was.

As RonBee says: by

The change from with to by in:

1) He surrounded himself with yes-men. (active)
2) Being always surrounded by yes-men, etc (passive)

suggests that there may indeed be a second parameter (as I suggested higher up: active vs passive) in addition to fromatto's excellent hypothesis about the opposition between what is integral and what is not integral.

5. ## Re: surrounded by vs. with

Originally Posted by naomimalan
As RonBee says: by

The change from with to by in:

1) He surrounded himself with yes-men. (active)
2) Being always surrounded by yes-men, etc (passive)

suggests that there may indeed be a second parameter (as I suggested higher up: active vs passive) in addition to fromatto's excellent hypothesis about the opposition between what is integral and what is not integral.
I agree. Let's separate 'to surround' and 'to be surrounded', as 'to surround' may have its own reasons for requiring the prep. 'by', and focus on 'to be surrounded.
If fromatto's idea of integral contour is right, 'yes-men' may simply not understood as such.

Page 2 of 2 1 2

#### Posting Permissions

• You may not post new threads
• You may not post replies
• You may not post attachments
• You may not edit your posts
•