I've looked up in my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and New Oxford American Dictionary, it turns out that the difference (if any) between "protest sth" and "protest against sth" looks very hard to tell. Examples are as follows:

  1. Students took to the streets to protest against the decision.
  2. They fully intend to protest the decision.
  3. Doctors and patients protested against plans to cut services at the hospital.
  4. The workers were protesting economic measures enacted a week earlier.

In addition, I'm wondering if the object following them really matters to the choice, but examples 1 & 2 seem to prove me wrong. Any more explanation on this?

2 Answers 2


Your examples 1 and 3 use protest against and 2 and 4 just use protest without against.

British English uses against; American English does not (and BrE seems to be following suit).

protest verb
1 [no object]
express an objection to what someone has said or done:
before Muriel could protest, he had filled both glasses
• publicly demonstrate strong objection to an official policy or course of action:
   doctors and patients protested against plans to cut services at the hospital
   [with object]: North American
   the workers were protesting economic measures enacted a week earlier


  • 1
    Thanks, Andrew. The tag "North American" also appears in my OALD, but not my NOAD. It has troubled me for a while to find that the latter does not mark the use without the preposition "against" as particularly North American usage, while it lists the two uses (with and without "against") separately with two virtually identical definitions. Though I was expecting explanation other than the regional differences, I think I can now settle for this one. Thanks anyway.
    – Andy Cheng
    Commented Apr 25, 2013 at 9:10
  • I think "protest"+object is increasingly common in UK English, probably under American influence. Searching the BBC website gave examples such as "Large crowds have gathered outside the Metropolitan Police's headquarters to protest the death of a man who was fatally shot by an armed officer in south London." (2022)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 14:12

Doesn't it depend on context? For example: The accused protested his innocence. In the example, the accused is saying that he is innocent.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. This doesn't appear to answer the question (although it might form the basis of an answer). This is a different sense of protest: it doesn't mean "speak out against".
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 12:25
  • @AndrewLeach A different sense, perhaps, but nonetheless a pertinent one. It shows that the verb "protest" is used with a direct object which is what the subject states, not what the subject objects to. Let's not try to silence a point of view by saying that it doesn't answer the question or its subject matter is different from what's acceptable here.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Nov 27, 2022 at 18:36

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