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Are things juxtaposed to or juxtaposed with other things?

  1. The slimy seaweed was startling, juxtaposed to/with the hot smooth sand.
  2. I moved the painting to the other wall so that it would be juxtaposed to/with the sculpture that inspired it.

Does the side-by-side nature of juxtapose dictate this, or does it depend on the perceived relationship between the elements?

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I think this ngram implies it doesn't matter. Check the underlying books to be sure though. –  Matt Эллен May 23 '12 at 15:38
    
x is in juxtaposition to y in my experience, but I think juxtaposed with is correct for that form. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 May 23 '12 at 17:24
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

As the Ngrams show, you can get away with juxtaposed with, to, or against. I prefer with because to implies some sort of subject-object or other asymmetrical relationship while with is used when the relationship is symmetrical. "I am talking to you" is different than "you are talking to me" and both are different than "I am talking with you." "A is juxtaposed with B" is the same as "B is juxtaposed with A."

It doesn't really make sense for one thing to be juxtaposed to the other except maybe in the case where one is talking about the physical act of moving A next to B. I would guess that people using to are referring to that literally or figuratively. Not only I juxtaposed the painting to the sculpture that inspired it but also We've been talking about the poverty of the bottom 10%, which is bad enough, but when that is juxtaposed to the wealth of the top 10% how can you not be outraged?

Still, I would use with exclusively.

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I think an asymmetrical vs. a symmetrical relationship (examples #1 vs. #2 respectively) is precisely what makes the difference. Which leads me to prefer "against" for #1, and "with" for #2. –  Chris Noe May 24 '12 at 21:59
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The Corpus of Contemporary American English has the top 3 collocates for juxtaposed:

1 JUXTAPOSED WITH    201
2 JUXTAPOSED TO      54
3 JUXTAPOSED AGAINST 49

So juxtaposed with is most common, with juxtaposed to and juxtaposed against about 1/4 as common.

My personal preference is juxtaposed against.

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The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, p. 254) has an entry for juxtapose in its "List of words and the prepositions construed with them":

juxtapose (vb.): to (not with)

The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs has an entry for juxtapose to but not for juxtapose with or against. Finally, the estimable Yahoo Answers community prefers juxtaposed to to juxtaposed with.

Whether or not it makes sense (the rules governing prepositions are arbitrary anyway), juxtaposed to is at least defensible, and it's my preference.

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