The Grammarphobia Blog

His mom is a stickler

Q: My mom corrects me for being redundant when I say something like “My little brother chased after the dog.” She says the word “after” isn’t necessary because you can’t chase “before” something. This makes sense to me, but I always hear newscasters say “The police chased after the subject.” I was wondering if she is just being a stickler.

A: Well, your mom is being a bit of a stickler. She’s right, though—she correctly objects to that usage because the preposition “after” is redundant. “Chased” alone would do the job.

On the other hand, there are lots of redundant adverbs and prepositions in some of our most common idiomatic phrases: “meet up with,” “face up to,” “try out,” “divide up,” “hurry up,” “lose out on,” and many more.

Sometimes a redundancy adds just the right emphasis, and that’s why these expressions persist in English. Many language authorities would say “chase after” is a justifiable idiomatic redundancy. That’s another way of saying it’s so common that we should look the other way!

But there are a couple of common redundancies that you really can’t justify—”off of” (as in “it fell off of a truck”) and “where is it at?” The “of” and the “at” in those expressions are frowned on by even the most liberal grammarians.

Buy Pat’s books at a local store or Amazon.com.