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We can find sentences like the one below from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

"Wet" is the opposite of "dry."

But I've heard others say "Wet is opposite of dry."

Is the latter correct? Why can't I find any dictionary that says the word opposite can be used as a noncount noun? Or if it is an adjective, why can't I still find this kind of phrase "be opposite of?"

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    In principle you could omit the article and say "Wet" is opposite to "dry", but note that you'd have to change the preposition. The sequence evil is opposite to good, for example, gets 182 hits in Google Books, but there are no instances at all of evil is opposite of good. Apr 14, 2016 at 17:47
  • @FumbleFingers. But be opposite to means " on the other side of something." There is a subtle difference between them. Be the opposite of means "completely different from something" according to the dictionary.
    – yyfroy
    Apr 14, 2016 at 23:05
  • Please look at this activity book: Making connections
    – yyfroy
    Apr 14, 2016 at 23:20
  • 2
    Your "the opposite of" means "completely different from something" is a somewhat loose definition. If I say cats are the opposite of dogs, for example, I'm completely ignoring the fact that cats and dogs are in most respects very similar (both are quadruped mammals often kept as pets, etc., so they're nowhere near as different as, say, cats and toasters). Things that are opposite are (figuratively) on orthogonally opposite sides of some contextually-relevant distinction*. Apr 15, 2016 at 12:32
  • Both are correct, in the right contexts.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 9, 2017 at 17:11

1 Answer 1

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This sounds like the others are using the prepositional form of opposite.

Preposition

opposite

  1. Facing, or across from.

    He lives opposite the pub.‎

  2. In a complementary role to.

    He played opposite Marilyn Monroe.‎

From Wiktionary

PREPOSITION

  1. In a position on the other side of a specific area from; facing.

    ‘they sat opposite one another’

  2. (of a leading actor) in a complementary role to (another)

    ‘the star was a young man playing opposite an older woman’

From English Oxford Living Dictionary

This would be incorrect, but understandable. Apparently, opposite can be used as an adjective, noun, adverb, and/or preposition depending on the context, and a casual English speaker might not know which context demands which form.

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  • @Clare I've added an example from OED. Not sure what you were seeing when you looked. Perhaps re-read my answer more carefully? I specifically talk about the prepositional form, whereas you seem to be quoting the second adjective form.
    – Ky -
    Nov 6, 2017 at 15:57
  • That's the same dictionary I'm quoting. And it's the Oxford dictionary online called ODO, around here. The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) is not a free dictionary. Nov 6, 2017 at 18:19
  • Yes, I was quoting the adjectival form. I have removed my downvote. On the other hand I usually encourage folks to use professionally-compiled dictionaries, such as Oxford. Nov 6, 2017 at 18:44
  • Thank you for your feedback. I've corrected the citation beneath the ODO example.
    – Ky -
    Nov 6, 2017 at 19:02

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