Impede and Impinge
A reader questions the use of the preposition on after impede in a newspaper headline:
I don’t think “on” is needed or correct [in this headline]: “Washington’s weeklong power outage impeding on Thanksgiving.” I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The reader is correct. Impede does not take a preposition. Here are examples of correct usage:
Flamingo Road construction will impede traffic through 2016
Natural selection, key to evolution, also can impede formation of new species.
Do emotions impede logic or do emotions contribute to being rational?
Five Negative Thoughts that Impede Weight Loss
In each example, impede is a transitive verb followed by a direct object.
Impede combines the Latin negative prefix im- with the Latin word for foot. The meaning of Latin impedire is “to shackle the feet.”
The English transitive verb impede means, “to retard in progress or action by putting obstacles in the way; to obstruct; to hinder; to stand in the way of.”
The person who wrote “Washington’s weeklong power outage impeding on Thanksgiving” may have been reaching for impinging.
Latin impingere means “to push, strike, drive [something] at or into something else.
A common meaning of the English verb impinge is “to encroach or infringe on or upon.” When that’s the meaning, impinge is followed by the preposition on (or upon):
But at what point does my freedom to act impinge on your freedom?
I don’t care what they do in their private lives just as long as they don’t impinge on my rights.
Is it acceptable to impinge on certain civil liberties for the sake of national security?
Is it possible to set up quiet areas without impinging on playground space?
Dido Sued for Impinging on an Astronaut’s Persona
The noise from next door was impinging upon my concentration.
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