I came across a title with a "from A over B to C" structure, namely

"Facts and events from the USA over the UK to Australia"

Now, I personally think this is incorrect (potentially a carbon copy of a German expression, if a Google search is to be trusted - but I'm no German expert myself), and would personally use either "from A to B to C" or "from A through B to C".

Am I wrong in thinking that "from A over B to C" is not proper English? Perhaps it's just an expression I've never come across?

EDIT: Also, the contest this title refers to supposedly also covers stuff about Ireland, Canada and New Zealand, so I would assume the three countries provided in the title are not supposed to be an exhaustive list. Not sure if that helps, really.

  • It does sound strange, but I find it rather immediately understandable. Unless my understanding is mistaken, it means “From the USA to Australia, by way of the UK” or “From the USA via the UK to Australia”, i.e., specifying a middle point between A and C, but not necessarily implying that the list is exhaustive. If Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand are implicitly included, I would think the person who wrote it considers the US and Australia as being the ‘ends’ of the spectrum, the UK being in the ‘middle’, and the rest being located somewhere in between. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 30 '15 at 18:39
  • Yes, I totally agree it's immediately understandable. That said, this is the topic/theme of an English language contest (as in, a contest in which ESL/EFL students prove their knowledge of English), and as such, it should be spotless. Hence my question. – Alicja Z Feb 8 '15 at 18:11
  • Personally, the only way the structure could make perfect sense to me (like I said, I do understand what it's supposed to say) is if somebody were travelling by plane from the USA over the UK to Australia (which would be a ridiculous flight path, mind you). But that's not what they're trying to say here - this is more of a "the store sold everything - from soap over cheese to picnic baskets" - which sounds really wrong to me... – Alicja Z Feb 8 '15 at 18:16
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    It looks just like another example of butchered grammar in titles. Newspapers are always doing that. – curiousdannii Mar 2 '15 at 5:26
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    As @SvenYargs said, the "from ... over ... to ..." structure is perfectly good English in some situations. In the context you quoted, it's not, but I can still understand it as an excessively literal translation of the German "von ... über ... nach ...". – Andreas Blass Apr 30 '15 at 23:34

I'm German and yes: You're right! In Germany it is totally correct to say 'Von...über..bis'. This would be a wrong word by word translation in this context. In Germany, it's a current way to list things which has something in common (e.g. countries) without any judgement. I studied English and learned to say 'from...to...to'. That this expression is still understandable for native speakers simply shows that metaphors in language (you can picture it in your brain) work no matter if you use this exact expression in your own language or not.

I love linguistics!

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Facts and events from the USA over the UK to Australia

Sounds very odd because it sounds like the facts and events are passing over the top of the UK, missing it out entirely, which isn't what I think the speaker is trying to convey.

I believe the correct wording would be:

Facts and events from the USA over to the UK, then over to Australia

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  • Hi Mark - thanks for your input. Do you think your version still makes sense with the extra info I just added to my question? I'm not sure it does (yours seems to imply to me that it's just those three countries), but you may have a different reading of this than I do. – Alicja Z Jan 30 '15 at 17:43
  • In which case it would only make sense to reference two countries: "I toured from Paris to Moscow" means that I visited a lot of cities in between. Adding a third city makes it sound like an exhaustive list. – Mark Jan 30 '15 at 17:45
  • @Mark Not necessarily. If you toured from Paris to Moscow by way of Rome, that doesn’t preclude lots of other stops—it just specifies that you didn’t take the straight line directly through Germany, Poland, and Belarus, but took a longer route that took you (at least) through Italy. That is what I think the writer is trying to convey here: the route ‘travelled’ in the events described are considered as going from a starting point in the US to an end point in Australia; but the route is not a straight one through the Pacific, but one that goes through (at least) Europe. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 30 '15 at 18:42

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