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Today I came across the following sentence in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article "Die Mär von der Vergiftung der Welt":

Manche der Monsanto**-Ankläger sehen sich durch die Agrarindustrialisierung in ihrer Existenz bedroht, andere haben prinzipielle Abscheu gegen Chemikalien.

In this sentence, the noun Abscheu (in English: revulsion, disgust) is used with preposition gegen. In Pons Dictionary and Reverso Dictionary it is stated, however that Abscheu is used with preposition vor. Are these prepositions interchangeable when used with Abscheu or is there a (subtle) difference in meaning?

** Monsanto Company is a publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered seed.

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    There are couple of examples with "Abscheu gegen" in Pons article. – Eller Sep 14 '16 at 20:49
  • In some of the examples "Abscheu" is also used with "für" and even with "gegenüber". Very interesting! – Eugene Str. Sep 14 '16 at 21:11
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Scheu is the scared reaction of an animal, for example a horse, in front of something it is kind of anxious. It can only be used with "vor".

Das Pferd hat eine Scheu vor fremden Menschen

Abscheu is an intensification of that notation up to pure disgust, but still describes the "horse" facing something in front of it, in my opinion everything else but Abscheu vor (like gegen, für or else) is just simply wrong. The notation is always one of a passive encounter, and that doesn't go along well with "gegen" or "für".

Meine Abscheu vor Spinnen ist legendär.

In the (very rare) cases I use "Abscheu", I always try to use it with "vor".

Ngrams seems to confirm that. "vor" is leading, with "gegen" as a runners-up (surprised me a bit, because "gegen" normally implies some sort of activity), "für" doesn't seem to be used significantly: enter image description here

  • Technically you are absolutely right, but your ngram shows: German language and its usage does not always follow strict rules... Some things are used very often although not correct (e.g. "das macht keinen Sinn" is totally nonsense in german, but is very often used instead of the correct "das ergibt keinen Sinn", probably because of the english "make sense") – Torsten Link Sep 15 '16 at 8:05
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The meaning of "Abscheu gegen" ist slightly different from "Abscheu vor".

If you say "Abscheu vor", then you rather avoid contact, it has the context of "being frightened" of something.

You could say: Abscheu vor Spinnen (Spiders) as a good example.

"Abscheu gegen" is more "active" (don't know how to explain better): You are not really frightened of the thing, but you are rather disgusted.

This is a very small difference in meaning, most people in germany would probably use them with the exact same meaning.

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