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Hello Teachers

I'm interested in what preposition is most used in combination with 'be surprised' and googled 'I was surprised about/at/by/in/with X'. The result was as follows;
(1) I was surprised at X. 213,000
(2) I was surprised by X. 154,000
(3) I was surprised with X. 13,500
(4) I was surprised about X. 9,410
(5) I was surprised in X. 5,210
The result clearly shows 'be surprised at' and 'be surprised by' are in dominant usage. But if you find such phrases like 'be surprised about/in/with' in the essays of your students, do you correct them? And is their difference between 'be surprised at' and 'be surprised by'? Thank you in advance.

paco
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There isn't any "surprised in" that I can think of.
I Googled these and found that "in" was the beginning of a prepositional phrase that interrupted "surprise" plus some other preposition.

I was surprised, in fact, to hear that ...
I was surprised in November with a wonderful gift from ...
I was surprised in Africa by the number of ...

If the preposition makes sense in its context, I see no need to correct it.

The difference between "surprised at" and "surprised by" is small and subtle.

This is my meager impressionistic view of it. "at" is away from the surprised person. "by" is toward the surprised person. You can be surprised by a loud noise, but not likely at it. You can be surprised at bad behavior, or by it.

Usually one is surprised with a gift or honor (like a party). The "with" introduces the instrument by which the surprise is created.

Maybe others will weigh in on it.

CJ
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CJ

Huurm...your comment is always interesting and very helpful to my understanding English to depth. Yes I too feel 'S be surprised at O' is a false passive (or semi-active) construct. The action 'be surprised' in this sentence sounds directed from S to O. On the other hand 'S be surprised by O' is a true passive construct, where the action originates from O and moves towards S. Very interesting analysis! We may apply a similar concept to the analysis of 'S be interested in O'. This sentence also sounds to be semantically in active voice despite the passive construct appearance. As for 'be surprised in', I regret not checking the usage in detail. I'm sorry.

paco
"understanding English indepth" Emotion: smile

Yes, there are many gradations of passive!
CJ

Thank you for the correction.Emotion: embarrassed

paco
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Is it correct to say : i am surprised at the news

They can be synonyms, but there is a shade of difference.

When you say
I was surprised by his behavior

it is the passive voice, like saying
his behavior surprised me, or
his behavior took me by surprise.

When you say
I am surprised at you

there is slightly more of a judgmental cast to it,
implying that you had expected better from him.

And then of course there is the original meaning.

The army was surprised by the snipers lying in wait for them.


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