Quick question about the correct use of "abreast". I have noticed most of the example sentences online only use "abreast of" and I am wondering if using "abreast a" instead is ever correct grammatically?

Eg 1: He fell abreast of the door.

Eg 2: He fell abreast a door.

The intention here is simply to indicate that a person is alongside a door. I prefer 2 since it is shorter and the meaning is still clear, but is it grammatically correct?

  • 1
    If abreast meant alongside, okay. Does it? Aug 27, 2023 at 1:42
  • Unless I'm mistaken, 1. appears to suggest so: dictionary.com/browse/abreast
    – FrontEnd
    Aug 27, 2023 at 1:48
  • 2
    @FrontEnd You seem to be asking whether it can be used as a preposition, but that definition says "adverb, adjective". Have you looked up the word to see whether it can be a preposition? Aug 27, 2023 at 1:53
  • One person alone can't be abreast of anything, surely?
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 27, 2023 at 10:14
  • google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=%22abreast+a%22 - Lots of examples here
    – Richard
    Aug 27, 2023 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


Rare, but there are examples in the Corpus of Contemporary American English.

"This must be the outskirts of Leiden," my mother says as we come abreast an old stone windmill. (Southwest Review; 2002, Vol. 87 Issue 2/3; Taber, Sara Mansfield)

As they draw abreast another door John suddenly jumps sideways, knocking Bobbi and Jack through the door ahead of him! (Hellraiser: Bloodline; 1996)

A few hits in HANSARD with the most recent from 1913.

she had to wait until flood tide in order that her bow would be brought abreast the harbour and she could steam out (English Parliament - House of Commons; 1913)

A google search of abreast a/an/another produces a few hits, mostly dated and found in official documents or nautical texts.

No person may operate a narrow track vehicle in a single lane abreast another motorcycle or narrow track vehicle (wa.gov)

Five more black beacons mark the edge of the western bank as it trends further to the westward , the last of the five being just abreast a red buoy on the opposite side of the channel at the Flats. (Pugh's Queensland Almanac, Law Calendar, Directory, Coast Guide and Gazetteer; Brisbane, Australia. Theophills P. Pugh, 1885)

Anchorage can be made in the middle of the bay , in 10 fathoms , a little over 600 yards above Astronomical Point at the entrance and abreast a rocky point at the north end of the sand beach on the west side (British Columbia Pilot: The coast of British Columbia from...; 1916)

Grammatically, it seems similar constructions have been used; however, it would be unusual, with the abreast of... variation being several orders of magnitude more common, and may not be appropriate in context.

  • 3
    How refreshing, an answer based on empirical evidence! +1 Aug 27, 2023 at 9:31
  • Do we even need a bunch of specific "curated corpus" examples? Here is a link to page 14 of my search in Google Books for just the specific prepositionless usage keep abreast the times, with 10 published written instances on every page. It would be perverse to label the usage "invalid" when it occurs so often, even though it's obviously far from the "preferred" form. Aug 27, 2023 at 11:24
  • 3
    We have to be careful about how ngrams are used to support answers about usage. If abreast the X is how the word is used primarily in military and nautical contexts, and such contexts are infrequent compared to other contexts, we should not leap to the conclusion that "abreast the..." is moribund. Notice the phrase "draw abreast" in the Hellraiser quote. draw abreast is a nautical phrase. Whether it's an appropriate stylistic choice there is a separate question.
    – TimR
    Aug 27, 2023 at 11:52
  • 1
    ...I think the question would be fine on English Language Learners, but it's a bit out of place here. Aug 27, 2023 at 16:06
  • 4
    I think the question rather too advanced and subtle for ELL.
    – TimR
    Aug 27, 2023 at 16:47

As a general purpose note, never be surprised when you hear "a" instead of of (or, especially after /d/ or /t/, instead of to or do). Any verb or construction that ends in of (as well as those that end in have) ends in a /v/ sound, and if that's followed by almost any consonant, it tends to disappear; how many English words begin with V plus a consonant, like Vlad? Take away the /v/ from of and have and all you got left is /ə/, that is, "a".

That gives us such spelling pronunciations as

  • alla those guys, a lotta them, abreasta them, on toppa them, woulda, coulda, shoulda, musta

And the substitutions for to give us

  • wanna, gotta, useta, hafta

as well.

These are not the correct spellings (unless you're transcribing dialog), but they are the spellings (often called "eye dialect") that represent correct American English speech, which, as we all know, the standard (aka "correct") spelling doesn't.

  • 3
    While this is true, it’s clearly not what the question is referring to. Considering a an eye-spelling for of would make the example given, “*He fell abreast of door”, and you wouldn’t need to ask an ELU question to know that’s very obviously ungrammatical. Aug 28, 2023 at 18:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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