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Is the following sentence grammatically correct?

A cascading silence that descends down the phone line.

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  • 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

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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.

descend

  • 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.

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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.

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  • 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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