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The usual preposition after the word, "Encounter" is "with". Such as, "My encounter with an old friend". But I saw "of" being used as a preposition in an example sentence in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, under this definition:

3: a coming into the vicinity of a celestial body "the Martian encounter of a spacecraft."

Does this mean that the Martian encountered the spacecraft? Or the spacecraft encountered the Martian? Also, if I were to use other celestial bodies such as Earth, would I say,"The Earth encounter of a spacecraft"? Will the preposition "of" work when we are using non-celestial bodies, such as "My encounter of my old friend"?

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    Encounter is a verb, with a moving agent subject and a patient object: Max encountered Shirley in the park. As a noun, there can't be subjects or objects, so the patient is marked with with, and the agent (if mentioned) is marked with a possessive, either -'s or of. E.g, Max's encounter with Sheila in the park or the encounter of Max and/with Sheila in the park. Jul 28, 2015 at 16:41
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    In your example, "Martian" is an adjective modifying "encounter" (Martian = of or pertaining to the planet Mars).There's no suggestion of any Martian LGM being involved (personally, I don't think M-W believe in them! :) Jul 28, 2015 at 16:41

2 Answers 2

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The sentences can both be re-written to the same structure.

"the Martian encounter of a spacecraft."

can be paraphrased as

"the encounter of a spacecraft with Mars"

and

my encounter with an old friend

can be written

the encounter of me with an old friend

Does that explain it?

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In this case you want to think of 'the Martian encounter' as a single phrase. The sentence is using the passive voice (generally frowned upon) with the spacecraft as the true subject and is describing its Martian encounter.

You will see odd phrasings whenever the passive voice is used, such as "The ice cream was spilled by me" instead of "I spilled the ice cream" or more to the point, "this is the son of George" rather than "this is George's son".

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