"on accident" vs. "by accident"
Grammar Expert, Growing up my mother was adamant we use "by accident" and "on purpose" vice "on accident", which is quite common in my home town. I met a middle school English teacher who wasn't familiar with my mother's rule. Therefore, I'm now curious if it was my mother's personal preference or if she was following a grammar rule? Please clarify. Thank you, D.J.
Djt, your mother was correct. The preposition that goes with accident is by, not on. By accident has the same meaning as the adverb accidentally or the prepositional phrase by chance.
By the way, we don't use by accident, nor the other 2 synonyms I mentioned above, to refer to an unfortunate happening that causes injury, harm or loss; for that meaning, we use accident as a noun: She had a car accident, but she wasn't hurt.
I hope this helps.
|link||edited Feb 19 '13 at 13:34 Shawn Mooney Expert|
Just because a study shows that people are doing something that does not mean that that "something" is correct. Studies also show that 40% of the population is situationaly ethical, meaning that they will be unethical if they can get away with it. Does that make being unethical okay? Should we just adapt to changing ethics? I doubt that you would agree.
More than this, you should read the paper yourself, it is actually quite short and is available here: http://www.inst.at/trans/16Nr/01_4/barratt16.htm.
If you review her methodolgy you will see that she conducted a small survey in four states (a total of 269 participants in all), and the majority of her sample are from lower income areas. Additionally, she does not state anywhere in her paper that she is willing to adapt to the change, she merely explores the phenomena. Personally, while I appreciate her efforts as a preliminary foray into the subject, I find her methodology, expecially her population sample, to be questionable and I would not accept her findings without seeing them subjected to retesting with a more representative sample of the US population, in a controlled study.
As to your question of resources, neither I, nor any of the resources that I have consulted, have found any other resources that specifically list "by" as the preposition to use with the word accident, however, every example in every reference book that I have consulted does employ the preposition "by" in their examples of sentences using the word accident. I have not seen one example of a grammar reference using the preposition "on" in conjunction with the word accident. I personally cringe everytime I hear someone say "on accident". It is a documented fact that our educational system is failing and I suspect the explosion of the use of "on accident" is a reflection of the degradation of the U.S. educational system, and the failure of parents to correct their children because they themselves are products of a poor educational system. There is nothing wrong with insisting that your children use proper grammar and I applaud your desire to ensure that your children speak properly. I have always considered it part of my responsiblity as a mother to ensure that my child use proper grammer.
|link||answered Jul 12 '13 at 22:14 Tina Van Rikxoord New member|
Thank you for calling this maddening mistake what it is! I only wish someone would truly explain the grammatical reasoning behind it.
My conclusion from the past five or six years of observation has been that the "on accident" crowd has one of the following five characteristics in common: they hail from a Midwestern or Southern state, anAfrican-American communities, they are first or second generation Americans, or they come from a lower socio-economic origin -- perhaps not immediately, but if you dig back a generation at most. I have no explanation for this. I can only say that it has interested me enough that I have started making mental notes whenever I've heard it used in conversation.
To any proponent of "on accident" I would ask, would you ever say "on chance" or "on mistake"? No. You would say:
On the other hand, a person might say, "I stopped by on the off chance that you might be at home." I have read that the on/by divide might be grammatically explained because one construction relates to an intentional action, whereas the other relates a passive occurance over which one has no control. Possibly the grammatical construction of the sentence above can be explained somewhere in that divide between the active and the passive.
I know that if you type "on accident" into any language translation program, you will most often get an incorrect answer or an error message. If you type "by accident", you will get an accurate translation. Also, French and German both use different words to convey "by accident" and "on purpose", for example:
by accident/by mistake/by chance:
sur le but
Finally, if you search a thesaurus for a synonym for "by chance" you will get "by accident", never "on accident.
I wish someone better educated than I would explain the grammatical rule that clarifies this once and for all.
Thank you for reading my thoughts.
|link comment||answered Apr 11 at 02:16 E.L. New member|
Hero of the day
Person asked the most questions.