I am confused by that ‘to’ after ‘adopted’. I know the meaning of adopted: embrace, take on, accept, choose, select, … But adopted is often used with ‘by’ or ‘as’ or used by itself alone.


  • That was adopted by them.
  • They adopted a baby.
  • He was adopted as the new manager.

So I wonder if ‘to’ in the following context should be taken as connected to ‘general enthusiasm’. But then what is the meaning of the whole phrase? Does it mean that it is adopted in support of general enthusiasm? Does it mean it is adopted amongst general enthusiasm? What exactly is the meaning of the ‘to’ in this context?

Over the same five-year period, the global political landscape underwent equally dramatic changes. Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States in 2016, Jair Bolsonaro’s in Brazil in 2019 and the Brexiteers’ victory in the United Kingdom in June 2016 are the clearest signs in a series of events often seen as marking the disinte- gration of the liberal order. Pretty much across the world, a movement back towards entrenched borders and social conservatism has created a loose alliance between those who have lost out in the process of globalization and are now desperately in search of new protectors, and the economic elites who are determined to force nations to compete with one another so as to preserve capital accumulation. Earlier, however, the Paris Agreement, adopted to general enthusiasm in December 2015, had foreshadowed the emergence of a new kind of diplomacy aimed at bringing the concert of nations into the era of climate change awareness. Despite the weaknesses that underlay this agreement, it was this attempt to forge a bond between diplomatic cooperation and climate policy that was attacked by the new masters of chaos: there was no question of founding a world order on any limitation of the economy

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    The answer below is a good one, but I want to make clear that "adopt" and "to" do not form a combined expression in themselves. Here, the word "to" is just a short elegant way of saying something like "with a response leading to....." It has a connotation of a welcome reaction that meets you in the face. Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


A definition of this meaning of "to" is found in the OALD.

to 17 (OALD) ​while something else is happening or being done
♦ He left the stage to prolonged applause.

There are two main cases of use: what is happening or being done causes what "to" introduces or there is no connection. It is left to the reader to determine whether there is a connection or not.


  • He left the stage to prolonged applause. (His performance on the stage is the reason for the applause.)
  • adopted to general enthusiasm (What has been adopted and its adoption are the cause of the enthusiasm.)


  • Jack steps off the plane to a pelting rain hitting his face, he lifts the case upward to block the rain, quickly jogged to the waiting reception area. (ref.)

In answer to the comment of user jsw29 (Why would one want to say that the agreement was adopted to general enthusiasm, rather than with general enthusiasm? In view of the core meanings of to and with, the latter may seem more apt.).

If the use of "with" is contemplated in place of "to", that leaves, out of the main categories of meanings, which are

  • I Denoting opposition or derived notions [user LPH: subcategory of meanings "1" to "4"],
  • II Denoting personal relation, etc. ["5" to "8"],
  • III Denoting agreement (or disagreement) in some respect ["9" to "13"],
  • IV Denoting association or accompaniment ["14" to "24"],
  • V Denoting instrumentality or cause ["25" to "28"],

only the fourth one (one will convince themselves easily of this fact). The subcategories of meanings have been scanned and the resulting images are shown below.

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"19" is not proper, as it does not apply to verbs, and the idea of association is rather one that defines closely something (not independent from it); this cannot account for all the people who are going to be enthusiastic shortly therafter. The definition does not fit the case well: the examples concerning that number are now listed (for the sake of distinguishing the context of use better).

  • Harper's Magazine She liked people with snap. CONAN DOYLE he was young .. with a strong masculine face. Headlight Convicted .. for using a lorry .. with inefficient brakes. D. DUMAURIER Anyone with a gift for telepathy could read .. your mind. J. HIGGINGS Her English was excellent, but with a German accent.

"20" is not much better, and there is again this idea of restriction to the adoption, whereas the idea of displacement carried by "to" eradicates this impression.

"22" does not identify the idea for the same reason stated above: there is no question of the manner of carrying out the adoption. Here are the examples.

  • S. BARING-GOULD The king escaped with difficulty. W. S.MAUGHAM They ate their simple meal with appetite. C. BAX A poet .. remembered with glowing affection. R. MAUGHAM He spoke English with a German accent. R. P. JHABVALA The Nawab treated him with .. exaggerated courtesy. with abandon, with bated breath, with gusto, with impunity, with one accord

"23" seem to be proper, however in many cases there the idea of restriction to the process, which is totally absent from the definition of "to" in the given context.

The examples for "22"

  • C. BAX He married again — with seemingly better results. B. MALAMUD She greeted him .. with a fresh kiss. A. GARVE He went off . with scarcely a word. E. TAYLOR He .. got up with a jerk. Oxford Mail People went hopping mad .. with all sorts of crazy capers for charity.
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    This answers the question, taken at face value (i.e. it states what the expression means), buy it probably won't quite remove the OP's sense that there is something puzzling about using to in this way. Why would one want to say that the agreement was adopted to general enthusiasm, rather than with general enthusiasm? In view of the core meanings of to and with, the latter may seem more apt.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 16:59
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    @jsw29: It seems to me that with would emphasize enthusiasm among those adopting the agreement (i.e., the politicians), while to would emphasize the enthusiasm of those not directly involved in adopting the agreement (i.e., the public.) Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:14
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    @jsw29 As your question is interesting I tried to come up with additional references and I believe that your idea of using "with" is tenable, if perhaps not better. As there is too much to consider, and as the discussion might be found a useful complement to the answer, I placed my reply in my answer to the OP.
    – LPH
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:26
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    All excellent stuff. The note from @MichaelSeifert nicely tops off a thorough analysis.
    – Anton
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 8:28

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