"protect against" and "protect from"

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 13, 2005

In Reply to: "Protect against" and "protect from" posted by Grace on December 13, 2005

: Is there any difference in how to use "protect against" and "protect from"? Thanks.

The eternal question: Which is the right preposition? Yes, there is a difference, but a subtle one. There is a tendency to regard "protect against" as being less absolute than "protect from." Thus you "protect against rust," because absolute rust-proofing is not always possible. You "protect from harm," which is probably equally chancy, but when saying it you wish to suggest the comfort and confidence of absolute protection. But this tendency is not absolute. To protect from mildew and protect against mildew will normally be regarded as the same thing, although in this case I prefer "against." If you are going to protect a child who is being bullied or threatened, you will more likely choose "protect from," but I hesitate to generalize off the top of my head that "against" is used with things and "from" with people. Others may very well have better ideas about this than I. SS