by turns / in turn

Yichen

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello everyone,

Please have a look at this and check if I am correct:

ABABAB ---------> in turn (A reads a poem and then B reads, and then again, A reads a poem, B reads a poem...)
ABCDEFG...--------> in turn (one by one)


ABCDE ABCDE ABCD
------> by turns (durning the process of ABCD----in turn)


I don't know if I have made myself understood.



Thank you.


 
  • Yichen

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    1. A, B, C, D, E, F, G...
    If each of them sings a song (whether it be a same song or different songs), they sing one by one.----> They sing songs in turn.
    Can I say "They sing songs by turns?"

    2. ABCDE, ABCDE, ABCDE,...
    If [ABCDE] (as a group) sing a first song, then a second, a third,..., it is hard to say they sing songs one by one, right? They just sing a same song or different songs.

    3. A-B-C-D-E, then again A-B-C-D-E,...
    This time, of A,B,C,D and E, they each sing songs by turns.

    I feel I am very stupid here. :)


    Confusing!
     
    Last edited:

    Yichen

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    1. The students read the poem by turns.
    2. The students read the poem in turn.

    I think 1&2 basically mean the same thing: They read poems one by one. ( in due order of succession )
    Even if the students are divided into, say, 3 groups, and they read the poem group by group, they still read the poem in due order of succession.

    Then would there be difference between the two sentences?

    Thank you.

     

    sevengem

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I think our shared confusion lies in whether "in turn" only means "a group of people doing something one by one " while "by turns", as the plural form suggests, connotes repetitions of the rotation.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I might use "They took turns to sing" or "they sang in turns". I think "by turns" is less commonly used, but I can't imagine that the meaning is different. It may be.

    Sorry, but I find Yichen's examples with letters confusing. Can you give us a complete sentence, with context, sevengem?
     

    sevengem

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The stories in the collection are, by turns, curious, tragic, disturbing, and heartening.

    Can I replace "by turns" with "in turn" here?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Is that sentence taken from the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary?

    by turns

    — used to describe different things that happen one after another
    in turn
    1
    : following one after another in a particular order
    • Each witness in turn gave his or her version of what happened.
    • The algae feed the fish, which in turn become food for larger sea animals.
    2 : as a result
    In those examples, I'd say that the phrases aren't used with exactly the same meaning and aren't interchangeable.
    I admit I had forgotten this usage of "by turns", meaning more or less "sometimes...at other times".

    Cambridge Dictionaries gives it only as an alternative to "in turn":
     
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