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I have a student that repeatedly writes of “contesting against former arguments”. Is this correct? I know it is normally “contest an argument”, but I’m not sure if the other use is valid also.

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'con-TEST' is a verb that doesn't use a preposition. "The politician contested the judhe's decision". A CON-test is a noun for a competition. –  Mitch Jun 30 '13 at 15:00
    
I think your student is confusing contest with contend. –  FumbleFingers Jun 30 '13 at 16:23
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2 Answers

You don't contest against something; you contest that thing.

So in this case your student is incorrect.

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I would contest FOR your argument, but that would be redundant. Contest alone already sufficiently specifies what is happening. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jun 30 '13 at 15:59
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According to Collins, both usages (with DO or prepositional phrase) are permitted:

contest ... vb [kənˈtɛst] ...

  1. (when intr, foll by with or against) to fight, dispute, or contend (with): contest an election

However, the allowable types of DOs and PPs are not spelt out here (can one contest against an argument or only against an opponent?)

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The example they give 'contest an election' shows a lack of preposition. –  Mitch Jun 30 '13 at 16:09
    
Your point being? –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 30 '13 at 19:24
    
You said 'are not spelt out here', and I pointed out where they at least gave an example (not 'spelling out the rule'). –  Mitch Jun 30 '13 at 19:44
    
Collins indicates that both DOs (as in the example they give) and PPs (introduced by with or against) may be used. It doesn't, however, indicate what the full ranges of permissible semantic types allowed are. To illustrate, fight may take 'an opponent' etc, 'cancer' etc, 'a bill' etc, 'a battle' etc; 'the good fight' as a cognate object; 'one's corner' idiomatically... and against an opponent, cancer, perhaps a bill (certainly against the passing of a bill), but not a battle... . –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 30 '13 at 20:21
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