If I am protesting forcefully the actions of another, let’s call him Joe, would it be better to say:

I remonstrated Joe over his choice of words in that argument.

or would I say:

I remonstrated with Joe over his choice of words in that argument.

Because he is the target of my remonstration, no?

Because close votes are collecting, let me explain why a simple internet search thus far has not led to me to a definitive answer:

The link supplied which suggests that suggests that adding “with” is usual was quite quickly found by me, and I didn’t think it necessary to state that I had come across that link, as the whole purpose of me asking would be negated if I had never heard someone say “aren’t you to use with with that verb?” I’m asking because I don’t know what the difference is when the target of the remonstration is present, versus when you’re discussing someone with whom you were remonstrating, for instance, if two editors were remonstrating the closing of a publisher. That would be an obvious use of with to connote multiple involved parties.

I don’t say I beat with you, whereas I might say I debated you or you might say I debated with you. Is remonstrated used in the same way as debated in this case, where you may choose or not choose to use with or is with required when using remonstrated?

More specifically, I said it as a direct statement to him “I remonstrated you” (a smaller clause from a larger sentence, with context)

  • 3
    @jcolebrand Please don't take offense. Your original question gave Andrew Leach and Billy only a choice between between two alternatives, and that was a GR question. They did exactly what they're supposed to do, and you have now done exactly what you're supposed to do: added a great deal of additional information which completely changes the complexion of your question. Dec 18, 2012 at 21:26
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    @jcolebrand When you are opposing a person, you are remonstrating with them ("I remonstrated with Joe"). When you disagree with a claim / object / person / person's behaviour / whatever, and you want to oppose it, you will remonstrate some words of opposition - most commonly these words of opposition will be direct speech (like in the Oxford dictionary example) or a clause of indirect speech starting with that (like in StoneyB's example below). The word is similar to "argue" in these cases ("I argued with Joe", "I argued that he was wrong", "'I find your behaviour appalling,' I argued").
    – Billy
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:42
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    @Billy An excellent analogy. I urge you to post it, appropriating any of my answer you're partial to, and then I will delete my answer and upvote yours. Dec 18, 2012 at 21:46
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    And now we've got all that sorted - Welcome to ELU, jcolebrand. We're very ornery about General Reference questions around here, because we get distressing quantities of questions that are completely answerable from even the most primitive dictionary; so, yeah, we want you to do the dictionary-song-and-dance so we don't have to do the do-you-really-have-a-question-or-are-you-just-too-lazy-or-too-ignorant-to-look-it-up-song-and-dance. Dec 18, 2012 at 22:01
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    Aye, but at ~1500 rep on here, I feel as tho I've gotten past the stage of "durrr, where's merriam webster"
    – jcolebrand
    Dec 18, 2012 at 22:35

3 Answers 3


There are basically two uses:

  1. The use as an intransitive verb: when you are opposing a person, you are remonstrating with them, e.g. "I remonstrated with Joe".

  2. The use as a transitive verb: when you wish to oppose an action / claim / object / person / person's behaviour, you can remonstrate some words of opposition. This will occur in two contexts:

    • Direct speech, e.g. "'I find your behaviour appalling,' I remonstrated".
    • Indirect speech: usually a clause beginning with that (though, as always, the that can be omitted), e.g. "I remonstrated that I found Joe's behaviour appalling".

All of these uses are comparable to the verb "argue":

  1. "I argued with Joe"

    • "'I find your behaviour appalling,' I argued"
    • "I argued that I found Joe's behaviour appalling"

This ngrams page shows that there have been occasional instances in literature of "remonstrated him" rather than "remonstrated with him", but they are rare enough to be treated as essentially mistakes in my opinion (you have to set smoothing to 0 to even see them, and even then they are three isolated blips).

  • Please show references. I don't agree that either the quotative usage or the usage with a that-clause are transitive usages (though analyses here differ). Dictionary pronouncements on a transitive uasge (or not), and which types of sentences are considered acceptable, would carry more weight than homespun examples. Jul 29, 2020 at 11:55

The Collins, Merriam-Webster, and Cambridge online dictionaries all call for with before the person to whom a remonstrance is directed.

Traditional grammar, which these dictionaries follow, treats this construction as an intransitive verb followed by a prepositional phrase; I prefer to regard it as a transitive phrasal verb, remonstrate with.

At any rate, in my experience what you call the “target” (an apt word, by the way) is always designated by the preposition with. OED offers uses with to, but marks these as obsolete.

Merriam-Webster also gives a transitive sense, with no examples; but the object of that verb would be the substance of the remonstrance, not the person to whom it is directed:

I remonstrated [with Joe] that his choice of words was entirely inappropriate.

  • Now why don't they spell it out in such plain English? Nowhere on the MW page do I even see that usage? (it could have been the insurmountable number of ads present) Notice also that your usage provides a case where with isn't necessary. Again I'm unsure of the proper usage, as you've given two distinct rules.
    – jcolebrand
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:21
  • @jcolebrand The example is not spelled out in MW; they use the words "intransitive" and "transitive" to indicate the use. The same goes for debate: the intransitive goes with with and the transitive specifies what is being debated. So you can't say "I debated you" unless the person you're talking to is the person who you were discussing with others.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:39
  • @jcolebrand I've edited my answer. Dictionaries can't include everything, even the monstrous and magisterial OED; certainly not the low-end versions you get free online. I would recommend consulting corpora such as COCA and BNC at BYU, but everybody tells me they're too hard to use. Dec 18, 2012 at 21:42
  • But that's the only time I would say "I debated you", what other case would there be for using that particular phrase?
    – jcolebrand
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:51
  • @jcolebrand There wouldn't; but again, in your question it appears that I debated you is equated to I debated with you with no distinction between them -- especially since it's immediately followed by I remonstrated you which has been shown to be incorrect.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:54

All our examples are past tense, which makes the word a mouthful. And it is already a mouthful!

"Remonstrate him," the cardinal said to the priest, looking down at the pauper.

"A man thinks he is his ideas---so he must constantly be ready to remonstrate himself should he find himself mad with no response."

I think its cleaner to use present tense when possible. That said, the ngram viewer shows that the past tense is much more common.

  • But what licensing is there that remonstrate can be used transitively, with a volitional theme / patient? The timeframe is at best a secondary consideration. The 1-grams you link to fail to address this totally. Jul 29, 2020 at 12:01
  • Right on Edwin. <3
    – Karl
    Jul 30, 2020 at 19:28

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