"His position as president renders him immune ..... criticism."

Any subtle difference concerning the viability and efficacy of criticism, according to the preposition used?

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The Ngram shows that "immune against" has always been unusual. Still, we can find it now and then.

  • What audience would have trouble discerning the meaning if to/from are interchanged?
    – SrJoven
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 12:13

4 Answers 4


Perhaps it's a region thing, but I have never heard immune used with the preposition against. I always hear immune with either to or from.

In that case, both immune to and immune from have the same connotation, though I hear immune to more often.

A quick search on Google Ngram confirms my thoughts:

enter image description here

  • I've added a more specific Ngram.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 0:10

A doctor, who was also an English grammarian and wanted to be entirely clear, would likely prefer to say only that you are immune to the pathogen he immunized you with.

Saying immune from has the possibility of implying that you are immune because of the pathogen. Though it is a weakened form of the pathogen that made you this way, it is still not those poor little, long dead guys that the doctor is trying to convey you are immune to, it is all the other, (and full-strength) pathogens of that particular disease that you are indeed immune to. In fact this very doctor might have a situational need to say that you are indeed immune from those poor little, long dead guys that he injected into you, hence another reason to be strict.

This, of course, is a parsing of the literal meaning, but the idiomatic use is derived directly from the literal and does not have currency on its own, without its etymological origins in the medicinal use.

Now, immune against is just wrong because of either a seeming redundancy or plain misuse.

In the case of calling it redundancy I mean to point out that the quality of being against something is built into the word immune, so the against in, immune against, is superfluous, somehow.

In the case for just calling it misuse I think it is odd to be against something that, in actuality, cannot harm you whatsoever (as a result of the ostensible immunity to it).

Immune to strikes as being the only reasonable usage for your example, assuming that the statement means to say that the president cannot be harmed by criticism because of his position.

I'd leave open the possibility that, like in the doctor's example, that a person could become immune from criticism. For example:

"Her life growing up with four brothers left her immune from criticism, hence the booing from the audience did not faze her."

  • How come I'm immute to something because I've been immunized against it?
    – bof
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 10:09
  • Well, "I've been immunized against" is stepping into all new territory with the change of tense. It doesn't sound as awkward as "immune against." But I still feel it is redundant as the immunity itself contains the "against"-ness. "To" seems enough. The "against" is already there. But again, you're example in that tense doesn't quite raise the eyebrow so readily as "immune against" does, especially when used idiomatically. @bof
    – Jack Roy
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 10:22
  • And it's certainly okay colloquially. The point is made, the idea conveyed - I'm no grammarian cop. But if we're gonna parse, well then, thems there the facts! "Immune" meaning not "mune" (which gets dubious etymologically) distinctly has the "not" right there in the word and seems to conflict (in redundancy) with "against."
    – Jack Roy
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 10:42
  • @bof and Jack Roy. F.T.Wood says the following: "If we say that a person's position renders him immune from criticism , we mean that it prevents any criticism of him being expressed; if we say that that his position renders him immune against criticism , we mean that criticism of him is made, but it is ineffective because he is protected by his position. What do you say?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 12:23
  • Well, it strikes me as: that'd be nice if there was a delineation along those lines. To be able to express the difference between immune by position to there being any assaulting agent whatsoever vs. being immune by having the status of inoculation to the outside force - and there might be some way that could be parsed from the old, original meaning of "not municipal" (if we can even be sure that's the etymological source, as it might be "not mutable/changeable) that could justify that... (though I can't see it)...
    – Jack Roy
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 12:42

I believe that from, to and against are all valid usages and depend on the way in which immunity occurs. Something or someone could be naturally immune from something, but if it weren't it could be made immune to it by being immunized (classical spelling!) against it.

  • Welcome to EL&U! Sources and/or citations are expected to support answers, and opinions are usually restricted to comments section. When you have enough reputation, you will be able to post comments. Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 18:56

Immunity is about how well we can face an oncoming threat. Naturally our defence "army" of organisms will directly attack and repel the invaders. When we attack we face and move towards the threat. The logical preposition to use is "to". Immune from implies running away and hiding, being in a safe, isolated place. Maybe a better word would be safe or isolated "from".

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