In more formal writing, you may find yourself using the phrase “with respect to” or “in respect of.” But what do these phrases mean? Are they both correct, or should you be using one over the other?
“With respect to” is the correct version of the phrase in American English, while in British English, both “in respect of” and “with respect to” can be used interchangeably. To determine which phrase to use, you must determine which version of English you’re using.
Here’s what you need to know about the phrases “in respect of” and “with respect to.”
What does “with respect to” mean?
The phrases “with respect to” and “in respect of” are identical in meaning. They are used to represent a connection between topics in a sentence.
Generally, it means that you are referencing a previously known or stated situation, fact, document, or similar item.
- This paper is inconclusive with respect to last week’s findings.
- I am calling in respect of your email on May 10.
Either version of this phrase appears most often in official documentation and speeches. It’s considered to be a more formal version of “about,” “regarding,” or “in connection with.” The phrase shows up often in political commentary.
Should you use “in respect of” or “with respect to?”
The version of the phrase you should use in your writing – “in respect of” or “with respect to” – depends entirely on which version of the English language you’re using to write your piece.
The two versions of English, though obviously using the same words and alphabet, have fairly significant differences in rules when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and, the most obvious, spelling.
British English versus American English
Which version of the language you’re using usually depends on your geographical location.
British English is the standard version of the language in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. It’s also frequently used in Canada and in some countries that were previously under British rule. American English, on the other hand, is used primarily in the United States and its territories.
There is no official governing body regarding the different forms of English (as there is with the Académie française for French, for example), but there are certain standards that set the languages apart.
- Several words which contain a “u” in British English drop it in American English: colour versus color, humour versus humor, etc.
- In British English, you might choose to spell certain words with either an “s” or a “z.” In American English, these words are uniformly spelled with a “z:” apologise or apologize versus apologize, recognize or recognise versus recognize, etc.
- Many words which contain a double “l” in British English have only one “l” in American English: travelled versus traveled, cancelled versus canceled, etc.
- Some British English words contain an “ae” or “oe” to make the long “e” sound, while American English words will be spelled with only an “e:” oestrogen versus estrogen, paediatric versus pediatric, etc.
Using “with respect to” and “in respect of” in British and American English
For “in respect of” and “with respect to,” the rule is relatively simple. British English uses both versions of the phrase interchangeably, while American English only recognizes “with respect to” as correct and useable.
To determine which version of English you’re using, consider where you are geographically and who you are writing for.
If you are writing for yourself while based in the United Kingdom or Canada, or if you are writing for a company or school based there, you should use British English, so you can use either phrase.
If you are writing for yourself while based in the United States, or if you are writing for a company or school based there, then you should use American English and stick to “with respect to.”
If you’re not sure which version of English you’re writing in, the safest bet is to use “with respect to,” as it’s correct in both versions. That being said, always double-check against a style guide if you’re writing professionally so that you can use the correct grammar throughout.
“With respect to” and “in respect of” aren’t particularly common phrases in everyday speech. While this does mean that you won’t encounter the choice very often, it also means that, when you do find yourself using it, you might be under more pressure to have the correct version of the phrase.
Thankfully, “with respect to” is relatively universal; in a pinch, you can use it and be sure that you are correct. Knowing that “in respect of” exists, however, can help you understand its use when you come across it while reading.
It’s good to know both versions of the phrase and to know when and how to use them.