# by turns / in turn

#### Yichen

##### Senior Member
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.

• #### ayed

##### Senior Member
ABABAB by turns
ABCDEFG in turn

We are in a dire need of English natives' confirmations.

#### Yichen

##### Senior Member
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
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
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
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
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
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":

#### sevengem

##### Senior Member
So both "in turn" and "by turns" can mean rotations?

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