11

I don't know whether it matters either way but I would like to get it right: do you say that a person is connected to a life support machine or that the life support machine is connected to the person?

  • 4
    In general, the smaller, or more dependent, or less important thing is said to be connected to the larger, or more independent, or more important thing. These are all from the viewpoint of the speaker, btw; they are both connected, so any preference is about something else. This is a basic binary opposition metaphor, like Up/Down. – John Lawler Jun 24 '17 at 17:20
  • 3
    Does the chicken expel the egg, or does the egg leave the chicken? – Sven Yargs Jun 24 '17 at 20:03
  • 2
    I thought this was a Philosophy SE at first...interesting question! – BruceWayne Jun 24 '17 at 20:24
  • 2
    A more idiomatic option than either is to say that "John is on life support". You would only speak of the connections if you specifically wanted to emphasize them: "They bought him back from the operating theater and connected him up to the life support machines". – Paul Johnson Jun 25 '17 at 10:12
30

The common usage is that the person is connected to the life support. This is because usually the person is what's being discussed.

John is connected to life support.

The person, when it's what is important to the idea being talked about, is the subject, the state of being connected is the verb and the life support is the object.


If the life support machine is important to the discussion, then it comes first:

Our only ventilator is connected to a patient already.

  • 2
    Excellent answer giving examples that bring out both points of view! – English Student Jun 24 '17 at 17:54
  • 2
    Great answer but to me the second sentence still feels weird. Even when the focus is on the machine (ventilator) it sounds unnatural. I would expect "A patient is already connected to our only ventilator." I wonder if the reason is man over machine, or if it's the fact that the man is the one using the machine rather than the other way around. I think it's the latter – DRF Jun 25 '17 at 14:29
  • 1
    @DRF It could also say: "Our only ventilator is already being used by a patient." and show use. I tried to use 'connected', as that seemed material to the question. – Chemus Jun 25 '17 at 14:36
  • Ahh that's it. That sounds normal. Good point. – DRF Jun 25 '17 at 14:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.