Consider the following two statements:

  1. The file has been tampered with.
  2. The file has been tampered.

Does the second version make sense, or should it always be "tampered with"?

  • There are only two definitions of the verb tamper marked as trans in the OED; one is marked obs, and the other rare. Neither one is applicable in your examples. – Dan Bron Nov 25 '14 at 20:55
  • Here's a scenario: Would it be wrong to say, "This soundboard is extremely sensitive. No tampering!"? – IchabodE Nov 25 '14 at 23:17

There are three transitive senses of tamper recorded by the OED, but the sense you use in the first sentence ("To meddle or interfere with (a thing) so as to misuse, alter, corrupt, or pervert it.") has only one closely-related transitive sense ("To put off or do away with by tampering or clandestine dealing."). The OED lists this as "rare" and giving only one quotation:

1817 M. Keating Trav. II. 217 No putting off trials..until prosecutions are wearied off, or tampered off.

As such, I'd be inclined to say no, you can't really use it in such a way and claim to be using the word in a way it's well-attested as being used; such a use is definitely a stretch.

Also, it just looks wrong; which is subjective, but then you can get away with anything as long as enough subjective opinions agree that it's masterfully original phrasing rather than just awkwardness. I'd be a vote for the latter.

  • I agree. The closest I can come to transitivity is tamperproof, but that doesn't really require an object. Tamper with means 'to do something that affects', and is effectively a transitive verb, in that it can even be passivized: This package has been tampered with. – John Lawler Nov 25 '14 at 21:04

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