I'm looking for a logical explanation of how we use the preposition "with" in the following context:

The company took the first place with their competition a distant second.

North America had the greatest number of travellers over the 5-year period with Central and Eastern Europe showing a similar pattern.

I suppose my main question is how do I explain the phrase (it's not a clause) that follows the "with"? and how do I explain the function of "with" in these sentences?

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    with means accompanying here, making the prepositional phrase an adverbial one of manner telling us how the company won first place. – deadrat May 1 '16 at 8:27
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    These look like examples of coordination where the preposition "with" has a meaning similar to the coordinator “and”. In your first example, the second coordinate is a verbless clause; cf their competition being a distant second. In your second example, the second coordinate is clearly a subordinate non-finite clause. – BillJ May 1 '16 at 9:06
  • Thanks. I'll look into the "verbless clause" and "subordinate non-finite clause". The missing verb is what is causing me confusion. Many thanks! – Moe Jul 2 '16 at 19:41

It's strange I can't find a duplicate and I believe there is one. I will try my best to explain it, but it is not easy.

The preposition with has a very important function as the below definition indicates:

used as a function word to indicate an attendant fact or circumstance: 'He stood there with his hat on'

The attendant circumstance means an accompanying circumstance. In other words, the action (or state) described after "with" is happening at the same time (usually).

The example in the block quote above could be rephrased to:

He stood there and he was wearing (on) his hat at the time (he was standing).

Your examples:

The company took the first place and their competition took a distant second (at the time the company took the first place).

North America had the greatest number of travelers over the 5 year period and Central and Eastern Europe showed a similar pattern (at the time North America had the greatest number of travelers...)

When you have something, you are with something. If two things happen at the same time, one thing is happening with the other.

Some more examples:

The matter was resolved with both countries cooperating.

She sat silently with the cat dozing at her feet.

The man is leaning against the wall with his arms folded.

You need to read as many examples as possible and get yourself familiarized with them.

  • @BillJ The sentence I rephrased has "and" in it. If it is explained that way, you can't explain how the verb form is changed to a non-finite form such as "being" and "taking". I agree with you. – user140086 May 1 '16 at 9:27
  • Interestingly, the Cambridge dictionary also defines this use of "with" as meaning "and": link (9th example). I should have given a better reconstruction with a 'verbed' clause, which might be and their competition came in a distant second. – BillJ May 1 '16 at 9:37
  • Thanks Rathony. I'll look into the non-finite clause. That's what's causing the confusion. I'll do some digging into this but if you know any good references or key search terms off the top of your head, I'd really appreciate it! It's the verbless phrase after that is confusing me, or going from the "and"+ clause to a "with"+verbless clause. Thanks so much for your help! – Moe Jul 2 '16 at 19:51

In my MA thesis, The English preposition WITH, pp. 60-, I described this "with" as expressing the subject of an absolute "be" sentence. I take absolute constructions as subordinate clauses with the precise adverbial relationship to the main clause left unspecified.

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