Consider these examples:

  1. 'I am happy with my parents'

    • my parents gets assigned Case by 'with'.
  2. *'I am proud with my parents'

My question is as follows: What is the reasoning for 2 being incorrect? Shouldn't 'with' assign Case to 'my parents' (in 2)?

  • 1
    I see nil difference between of and with with regard to case. You can prove this to yourself by substituting in pronouns, the only nouns in English that are declined. Jun 23, 2017 at 11:07
  • @Review This question asks for a linguistic explanation on a phenomenon of case assignment, not on how to use some expression, so it's on-topic here. Jun 27, 2017 at 8:51
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer I don't know syntax. Is it the case that both of and with assign the same case, but heads like happy and proud require specific prepositions lexically? So that every speaker has a dictionary of which prepositions go with which words, possibly for every single word? (as a non-native speaker, I'll add that getting these prepositional requirements right seems to be a particularly hard piece of the language to acquire.) Jun 27, 2017 at 10:24
  • 1
    @leoboiko Yes. Prepositions are somewhat arbitrary ie learnt per word. A given lemma takes a certain preposition for a certain meaning. It could take another preposition for another meaning, eg "happy with him" vs "happy for him". It happens to be so in English that the cases are collapsed, for these prepositions and in general. We can probably discover some underlying classes, so given a new word, eg "DDoSed", we will have an instinct about the prepositions it can take, but it is not simple, eg "satisfied for him" and "unhappy for him" seem invalid to my ear. Jun 27, 2017 at 12:23
  • @leoboiko In fact, the prepositions can be a key part of the context which help us understand the meaning of a new word. eg "I am so very froggled for him." The possible meanings of "froggled" are greatly reduced if this is valid. Jun 27, 2017 at 12:25

1 Answer 1


In my opinion, it is more about semantics than just a case adjustment. The semantics are those of 'inanimate causative action' or 'intermediate action' that require with as a marker of non-animate instrument (cf. written by hand VS written with a pen).

The choice of a preposition, in my opinion, depends on innner semantics of the verb, which historically is close to a meaning of 'making a hap' (as a noun-derived word):

happy <= hap <= happen <= ME happen <= PG hampijaną

In other words, the choice is governed by the semantics of the verb (and not by the complement).

Because parents are 'living beings', but the hap is not, it is not 'feasible' to use 'with', which goes with inanimate 'causative' instruments. And, yes, the causativity for the 'hap' (I'm not sure if causativity is the best term, but let's take this due to the lack of another option) is one of the key concepts here, I suppose.

Because of the causativity, the choice of the 'case-preposition' is governed by the 'hap' and not 'parents'.

In a case of 'being proud', the choice of a 'case' is governed by the 'parents', not 'pride'.

  • Could you explain the historical part a bit more? I don't think most people are familiar enough with the history of English to understand the connection... Jun 27, 2017 at 14:48
  • @Manjusri I'm still unsure why "I'm happy with my parents" is correct, as 'my parents' are 'living beings'.
    – PolkaDot
    Jun 28, 2017 at 7:22
  • @WavesWashSands well, I've added up some more phrases to my answer, but they are not about etymology, because the etymology is not the number one reason to result in the difference, I think
    – Manjusri
    Jun 28, 2017 at 19:00
  • @ToInfinityAndBeyond Right, seems like my words ran full steam ahead of my words. Here's some more explanation
    – Manjusri
    Jun 28, 2017 at 19:03

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