Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Grammar: How To Use "Is Of"?

Image collected from internet
Put together by Locky's English Playground
I got a question from a really good friend today asking me the following,

May I ask you something ?
Recently, I heard a sentence :
“I can’t stress enough that security is of the highest importance.”
What is the difference if ignore ‘of’ in this sentence ? what is the function of ‘of’ here ?

Since my dear friend has a background of computing, I also used computing metaphors in my reply email, where Adaptor and Object are common terms in the computing field.

The function of "of" here is an "adaptor" in computer language for the "object", the noun that follows.
If you want to use noun, you have to use "of" otherwise you can only adjectives.
If "of" is ignored, then the grammar is wrong, because you need the missing <word> to complete the sentence.

  1. Security is the highest <adjective> importance.
  2. Security is the highest important <noun>.

For those of you who are not from a computing background, you can still think of the answer using the following analogy (analogy is not restricted to only the sentence structure to be discussed):

Panda in China
Image from the internet =P
Let say you are a foreigner visiting China. You want to take some marvellous photos of pandas so you have brought your camera with you. Since you are planning to stay for a few days, you have also brought your battery charger, as shown in the photo below,

My camera battery charger and plug
Image from Locky's English Playground
But then, by the time you have reached China, you realise that your charger's plug is of UK BS 1363 (Type G) standard whereas in China, they use China CPCS-CCC (Chinese 10 A/250 V) (Type I), as shown in the photo below,

Smiley sockets in China
Image from Wikipedia
Just as the those smiley-looking sockets are laughing at your naivety, you realise that your better half is much smarter than you and has already prepared an adaptor for you before you leave home,

UK-to-China Adaptor
Image from ebay
and so, your battery can now comfortably drink its juice!

As such, 

Battery charger + UK plug + UK-to-China adaptor  +  China socket.                

   Security        +       is     +               of                 +  the highest importance.

Pandas       +      are   +               of                 +  the bear family        

Without the adaptor, you cannot insert the plug into the socket; without the "of", you cannot plug a noun phrase to complete the sentence.

You might argue that this is not a perfect analogy, and you are right, but I do hope that the "of"-"adaptor" relation is much clearer to you now.

"What does this post have to do with me?"
Image from
Happy adapting!

naivety -- (n) [U] trust based on not having much experience:
better half -- (n)[C usually singular] (plural better halves) humorous A person's better half is their husband, wife, or usual sexual partner.

BS 1363 (Type G) @ Wikipedia

China CPCS-CCC (Chinese 10 A/250 V) (Type I) @ Wikipedia