Uses of “Dispose”

By Maeve Maddox

Ed Buckner writes:

In my work, people often use the word “dispose” when referring to solid waste.  My issue is that many people want to append the preposition “of” to the word “dispose” as in, “the company disposed of the hazardous waste.” This does not seem correct to me, yet I have had wordsmiths in the office correct my writing to include “disposed of.”

One would not say “transported of the waste” or “stored of the waste,” yet people insist upon saying “disposed of the waste.” Am I wrong here or is it a case of an error becoming the standard through constant incorrect use?

The verb dispose can be used either transitively or intransitively. When used transitively, it does not take a preposition. Used intransitively, it often does.

As an transitive verb (a verb that governs an object), dispose can mean “to place, to put away:

The company disposed the waste in drums placed in several buildings.
The child disposed the toy soldiers about the carpet and under the table.

As an intransitive verb dispose can take a preposition.

to dispose with: put into a settled state
I want to dispose with this lawsuit once and for all.

to dispose of: get rid of
We hired Acme Garbage to dispose of our solid waste

Dispose can also be used intransitively without a preposition as in the proverb Man proposes; God disposes.

When the meaning is “to get rid of,” dispose needs the “of.”

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4 Responses to “Uses of “Dispose””

  • Daran

    When used transitively, it does not take a preposition. Used transitively, it often does.

    This is contradictory. I assume you intended to say “Used intransitively, it often does.”

  • Maeve

    Daran,
    Thanks for spotting the typo. I’ll correct it as soon as I can.

  • Cal

    “The child disposed the toy soldiers about the carpet and under the table.”

    Should be “above”, not “about”.

    The child disposed the toy soldiers above the carpet and under the table.

  • Maeve

    Cal,
    The intended word is “about.” One of the meanings of “about” as a preposition is this: “In and around, in the vicinity of; in some part of, in various parts of.”

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