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Hi all I was wondering if I wanted to say that a tsunami has no chance against a set of defenses, would I say:

  1. This tsunami is no match against the defenses.

  2. This tsunami is no match for the defenses.

Or are both acceptable?

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Grammatically speaking there's nothing inherently wrong with no match against, and although far less common, it does occur. But many people will consider it at the very least "non-standard", or even "invalid", so I would advise non-native speakers to avoid it completely or risk being criticised for "incorrect" word-choice. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '12 at 18:16
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The ngrams for match against,match for shows that match for is much more frequently seen in print. The wiktionary entries for against and for prepositions both show about a dozen senses each, among which none seem to precisely match the usage in your example sentences. It appears that technically you could use either form and be able to justify it by dictionary reference; however, your

This tsunami is no match for the defenses.

will be thought more correct by more people. Note, while "no match for" clearly places the strength of defense above the power of the tsunami, the very-similar "not a match for" is ambiguous and could be taken either way, as above or below. You might consider instead saying, e.g.,

The defenses will easily withstand this tsunami.

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I think "X is no match for Y" is a fairly standard idiom where there's no doubt Y will prevail. But things are very different with "There is a mismatch between X and Y's powers", where all we know is it'll be a walkover for one of them. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '12 at 19:09
    
@FumbleFingers, that's consistent with what I wrote -- that "no match for" is clear (not ambiguous). Like you, I don't regard your "there is a mismatch..." phrasing as an example of ambiguity, because the "walkover for one of them" implication seems quite clear. Whether my "not a match for" example exhibits ambiguity (as I suggest in answer) is perhaps less clear. –  jwpat7 Jan 6 '12 at 19:22
    
Yes, but your "in-betweeny" case hardly even exists by comparison with the standard idiom. By contrast, is a mismatch between has come to be quite common over recent decades, even though superficially it tells us very little. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '12 at 22:21
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@FumbleFingers Ok, I see what you mean. Mostly. I'm having trouble with whether "superficially it tells us very little" means "apparently it tells us little but really it tells a lot" or superficially is a slight misspelling of actually. –  jwpat7 Jan 6 '12 at 22:33
    
Now, now! As the pseudonym implies, I'm a bit cack-handed on the k/b, but even I couldn't manage superficially as a typo for actually! I meant "from the perspective you and I are considering", which is basically "Who's gonna win?". From the perspective of "Is it gonna be a good fight?", you probably don't want to hear that there's a serious mismatch. –  FumbleFingers Jan 6 '12 at 22:56
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The correct answer should be

This Tsunami is no match for the defenses

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