I get a daily English usage tip in my e-mail from Garner's Modern American Usage.* Today's was on the idiom "lay waste," which I have always heard used in this way: "they laid waste to the city." This is not the original idiom, apparently:
The traditional idiom is an unusual one: either "they laid waste the city" or (a variant form) "they laid the city waste." "Lay" is the verb; "city" is the object; and "waste" is an adjective serving as an objective complement.
However, "laid waste to" is now the dominant usage:
In 1965, an academician polled about 100 college students in New York, only a quarter of whom preferred the traditional phrasing; half preferred the phrasing "laid waste to the city." In that version, "lay" is the verb; "waste" is a noun serving as a direct object; and a prepositional phrase follows. The phrasing doesn’t make any literal sense.
A look at relative frequencies in 2003 showed that in modern print sources, the version with the superfluous "to" outnumbers the one without it by a 3-to-1 ratio.
*There is a link in the bottom of the right column to subscribe to the usage tip of the day if you are interested.