English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Could someone explain me why the following phrase uses the bolded to instead of (to my opinion) by? (This phrase has been extracted from a newspaper article.)

Mr Bersani’s PD has been leading in the polls ever since the election was called but, thanks in part to a proliferation of parties, with a share of the vote that is lower than when it lost to Mr Berlusconi five years ago.

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by MετάEd, RegDwigнt Feb 18 '13 at 20:34

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This could work as a question for English Language Learners, but here on ELU it is plain off-topic. No native speaker would ever use "lose by" to mean "lose to", or vice versa. They just mean entirely different things. – RegDwigнt Feb 18 '13 at 20:39

You're incorrect, by could not be used here, so this isn't a case of being allowed to use to instead of by.

The parties are the subject and agents ("doers") of lost, it is they who did the losing. Berlusconi is who they lost to. He is the prepositional object of the clause.

We could use by if we rephrase it so that we use a verb passively, and the subject becomes the patient ("done to") and the object (Berlusconi) becomes the agent:

...with a share of the vote that is lower than when it was beaten by Mr Berlusconi...

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.