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Could you tell me the meanings of over in the following?

  1. The girl wandered over the field.
  2. The girls wandered over the field.
  3. The girl walked over the field.
  4. The girls walked over the field. 

Does (1) mean that the girl wandered across the field? Or does is mean that the girl wandered all over the field? Is (2) just the plural version of (1)?

If (1) means "wander all over", can (3) mean the same thing?

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What's the point of examples 2 and 4? They seem to have nothing at all to do with your question. –  Mitch Dec 6 '12 at 14:19
    
Also, have you noticed that you have a '0% accept rate'? You should go through all your questions and 'accept' an answer for each one (if they help answer). Otherwise no one will want to bother answering you. –  Mitch Dec 6 '12 at 14:21
    
Like Mitch, I don't understand the point of examples 2 and 4. I mean, yes, customarily if you pluralize a word, you end up with the plural version; there's nothing surprising or hard to understand about this. I suspect that you do have an actual question, but perhaps don't want to post the actual words for privacy reasons or whatever, and have instead come up with a contrived example. Problem is, your contrived example doesn't work. –  Marthaª Dec 6 '12 at 14:55
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closed as not a real question by MετάEd, Andrew Leach, Mitch, Marthaª, Robusto Dec 6 '12 at 15:59

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4 Answers

Over is a troublesome word. It obviously involves Up, and also involves Motion. A colleague of mine wrote her dissertation on its semantics (Claudia Brugman, The Story of Over).

A couple examples of the troublesome parts

  • That town is over the hill. (the town is on the other side of the hill)
  • The bomber is over the hill. (the bomber is above the hill)

As for the particular meanings of plural subjects, StonyB has it right.

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Over in all of these might mean, as you say, across or all over. It might also mean about, without implying as all over does, that they traversed most or all of the field.

Wander differs from walk here in being marked for an erratic or aimless quality to the action. That doesn't mean that walk necessarily implies direct or purposive action; it may mean direct or erratic, purposive or aimless.

In actual discourse, as opposed to textbooks, people do not utter random sentences of this sort. Context will determine which of these alternatives is meant.

Your 2. and 4. differ only in their plural subjects.

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(1)"just across" (otherwise one would use "all over")

(2)Yes, just plural.

(3)invalid due to (1) (still means the same)

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2 and 4 are just the plurals of the preceding ones.

As for the method of their walking, wandered implies some aimlessness, as if they were lost or had no destination in mind. It's impossible to tell without context if they crossed the field or were walking all over the place.

Similarly, walked over the field, could mean crossed the field, but would imply they had a destination or at least a direction in mind and the field was in their path. Or, walked over the field could mean that they were looking for something or inspecting it. Someone might walk over a football field to inspect the turf, for instance.

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