Is the following sentence grammatically correct?

A cascading silence that descends down the phone line.

  • 3
    Its grammatically correct. There's nothing wrong with using descend with a preposition — consider descended to the, descended through the, descended from the. However, it's redundant, and thus should be avoided. May 10, 2023 at 11:34
  • 3
    In this rare case, down is less redundant than it seems. Down, here, means running along the phone wires, as opposed to descending not upwards. May 10, 2023 at 14:44

2 Answers 2


It's difficult to prove a negative, though no example of a prepositional phrase following 'descend/s/ed/ing' I've found in online dictionaries is headed by 'down' ... and there are no examples of '... descended down.' etc.

  • [T] Jane descended the stairs slowly in her wedding gown. {Prepositional phrase incidental to the present discussion; references 'Jane'.}
  • [I] The path descends to the valley below. {PP directional, hereafter 'D'}

[Cambridge Dictionary

  • descended from the platform {D; showing starting point}
  • reporters descended on the candidate {D, metaphorical}
  • the road descends to the river {D}
  • [The plane descended onto the runway] {EA; D}
  • a hawk descending upon its prey {D}
  • descended to poverty {D, metaphorical}
  • The stairs descended into the tunnel. {D}
  • He descended into a deep depression. {D, metaphorical}
  • a desk that has descended [with]in the family {locative, L}
  • Alone and without a rope, he descended along a series of treacherous ledges {D/L}
  • [the head was not fully descended within the pelvis at the start of labour] {EA; L}
  • [He descended along with Hilary] {EA; PP incidental}

[Merriam-Webster except where indicated]


Maeve Maddox, at Daily Writing Tips, does label the usage unacceptable:

One kind of preposition error is to follow a verb with a preposition when one is not needed.


  • INCORRECT: Sunita Gale and her husband descend down Highclere Castle’s majestic staircase. [Caption, Today site.]
  • CORRECT : Sunita Gale and her husband descend Highclere Castle’s majestic staircase.

Descend is a [usually; EA] transitive verb that means “to move from a higher to a lower position.” The idea of down is included in the verb descend [so a directional down-phrase is redundant, and better avoided].

Though admittedly, there may well be some examples of 'descended down ...' to be found on the internet.


Yes, there is redundancy in the written down words you wrote down. (Heh heh.) It's not wrong but it sounds a little weird.

But the reason it sounds weird isn't the redundancy. It's the join of "cascade" with "descends." "Descend" is too weak for "cascade."

Try one of these instead.

A cascading silence that tumbles down the phone line.
A cascading silence that lurches down the phone line.
A cascading silence that floods down the phone line.

Or pick a word that works in your context.

  • Does silence usually tumble or lurch? It tends to fall or descend.
    – Stuart F
    May 11, 2023 at 15:53
  • @StuartF It does not usually cascade either.
    – Boba Fit
    May 11, 2023 at 16:05

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