I've encountered another controversial sentence from the SAT writing section. Here it is:

Given her strong sense of social justice, Burns vehemently protested over her party's failure to support a tax decrease for senior citizens.

Could anyone please explain why the highlighted part is wrong?

  • 1
    I think it's because it should be "...protested her party's failure...", rather than "...protested over her party's failure...".
    – Liesmith
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 22:55
  • 1
    British English needs a preposition (although omitting it is becoming more common). Over works in BrE; about would also work. Without a preposition, one might actually be arguing for whatever it is: protest one's innocence, for example.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 22:59
  • 2
    Over works in AmE, too, as does about. Leaving off a preposition works most of the time, but occasionally it does not seem to work. If the SAT objects to "over" then I can't fathom why. Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 23:02
  • I would have said 'protested at her party's failure...'.If you leave out the preposition altogether it is a bit like 'protesting one's innocence'. The verb is suddenly transitive, and it doesn't make sense in the case the OP quotes. I also think the fashion for 'over' is equally ridiculous. One 'looks over' and one is 'sick over' something or someone.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 23:35

2 Answers 2


To my ear, the preposition after protested sounds strange. I searched the NYT for similar phrases, finding:

  • was ejected in the eighth inning of their 14-inning 9-5 victory after he vehemently protested an overturned call at first base.
  • ...failed in his fiduciary obligations and had put personal and family gain ahead of union interests — judgments that he vehemently protested.
  • ... Ms. Winston said she vehemently protested that idea. ''My suggestion to Van was that CBS rethink...
  • students have frequently rebelled; in 2008, they protested what they described as slipping academic requirements, shoddy...
  • More than 230 people were arrested yesterday in San Francisco as they protested President Reagan's Central America policy...

But I was unable to fine even one instance of he vehemently protested over, and very few protested + over in any context (in the NYT).


When used as a noun:

The protest over (or about) this SAT question is still ongoing.

When used as a verb:

Vlad protested against the answers to this question.


Given her strong sense of social justice, Burns vehemently protested against her party's failure to support a tax decrease for senior citizens.

  • To my thinking, the word protested already carried against (publicly demonstrate strong objection to a policy or course of action adopted by those in authority) and saying it is needless. She is protesting her party's failure. Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 12:31

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