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Dictionary.com and Oxford Dictionaries Online define drop as:

  1. cause or allow to sink to a lower position
  2. let or make to fall vertically

When I say “I dropped the baton” without further information like “to the floor,” can the listeners interpret it as "the baton went down off my hand"?

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Something like "to the floor" or "to the ground" might help the reader discern if you are inside or outside, but I think gravity does a pretty good job of ruling out places like the ceiling. Expressions like "I dropped the ball" are fine by themselves, particularly when they're being used figuratively. –  J.R. Jan 6 '13 at 11:43
    
on the ground –  user19341 Jan 6 '13 at 12:03
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The second meaning is pretty much the default, and listeners are going to assume that this is what it means unless it is obvious that this meaning is unlikely (i.e., "he dropped his arm"). People would probably say "he lowered his baton" for the first meaning. –  Peter Shor Jan 6 '13 at 14:36
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4 Answers 4

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I agree with J.R.'s comment but would like to add that sometimes it matters where what you dropped landed. If you dropped your Kindle, as Noah suggests, it matters whether you dropped it onto the floor or onto your bed. I dropped my Kindle last month and it broke because it hit the floor and not my bed. I wouldn't qualify I dropped the baton by saying where it landed unless that information made a difference. I dropped the ball is an idiom that has nothing to do with where the ball falls, but has everything to do with your failure. If context tells the listeners where the dropped object was dropped, it's not necessary to say where it landed, only, perhaps, what happened to it. But if that doesn't matter, saying that you dropped it is enough to let the listeners know that it escaped your grasp and fell downward.

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+1 for actually dropping your Kindle –  user19341 Jan 6 '13 at 12:00
    
@Arch: Thank you for the upvote, Arch. Now, if you want to be a really really really nice guy, you can send a new Kindle Paperwhite (with the adverts, the cheapest one) to me here in Taiwan. :-) –  user21497 Jan 6 '13 at 12:28
    
Doesn't sound like a bad idea. I'll try :-) –  user19341 Jan 6 '13 at 16:25
    
I disagree with your answer like Noah and add mine as an alternative. –  cbbcbail Jan 10 '13 at 22:43
    
@cbbcbail: You are free to disagree with whatever you don't agree with, but there's absolutely nothing for you to disagree with in my answer. I'd dropped my Kindle a few times before it broke, but I'd never dropped it onto a hard floor. "Sometimes it matters where what you dropped landed" means what it says. Saying only "I dropped my Kindle" is of no value to the listener. Why would I say it if I didn't want to add that it broke because it hit the floor or elicit a question about whether it was still working? Just to say that it fell to lower position because of gravity? I'm not frivolous. –  user21497 Jan 10 '13 at 23:12
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“I dropped the baton” without further information means exactly that and makes complete sense by itself.

'Any further information' becomes necessary to be included when such information is relevant and significant to the context.

In a hypothetical situation, you could be dropping it somewhere mid-way between the Earth and the Moon. There's no telling if it "falls" to the "ground" or "floats" to the lunar surface. You may have to tell.

On the other hand,

"A two degree drop in ambient temperature" is a case of 'sink to a lower position'

whereas,

"All objects when dropped from a height will fall at the same rate, regardless of mass." is a case of 'let or make to fall vertically'.

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No, it doesn't. You could say you dropped your Kindle, etc.

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This is really unclear to the question he was asking. Are you talking to @Bill Franke? Or answering Listenever? –  cbbcbail Jan 10 '13 at 23:18
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I both disagree and agree with many of these answers. While adding information will always make more things clear to people, in almost all situations, it is not necessary in these cases. It is perfectly legitimate to say "I dropped my Kindle." even though the material on which it lands makes a difference to the object based on its physical composition, that information is not required. Just as if you said "I talked to Jan." as opposed to " I talked to Jan about her attempted suicide." It makes a big difference but is not necessary.

In essence with the use of the verb "to drop," people will know that the object moved to a lower position as a cause of, gravity. They may not know If your Kindle is ok, but they will know the position change of the object just as your dictionary definition's stated.

Someone might say: "I dropped my Kindle but it wasn't damaged." Someone also might say: "I dropped my Kindle, now I have to order a new one online." Both of these sentences use the verb "to drop" just fine and are grammatically correct.

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-1 Frankly, I find this answer quintessentially silly: "It is perfectly legitimate to say 'I dropped my Kindle.' [Listeners] may not know If your Kindle is ok, but they will know the position change of the object just as your dictionary definition's stated." Why would I bother to mention that I dropped my Kindle? Taking your logic beyond step 1, I infer that it's best in your world to say absolutely nothing because it's really never necessary to speak unless ... well, unless it is. Speaking & writing aren't about what dictionaries say words mean. Are you a computer? –  user21497 Jan 10 '13 at 23:21
    
The difference between us is that we disagree on whether we should be trying to help the questioner understand what it is he is asking or if we want to confuse him with non-examples about the fragility of a Kindle. –  cbbcbail Jan 10 '13 at 23:24
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