in turn to do vs. take turns to do vs. by turns to do

natasha_139

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi there,
I want to know the difference among the above three phrases when they are used to describe you do something in proper order or sequence.
I do not have any context. Because at the first glance of their meaning in dictionary (English-Chinese), they seem the same to us.
Could you just give me context and examples to distinguish among them? Thank you!
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The distinctions are slight and often it does not matter which you use, although 'by turns" is to my mind, the least common.

    Each pupil in turn tried to lift the weight. = Each pupil had one attempt at lifting the weight
    Each pupil then took turns at throwing balls = Each pupil had several attempts at throwing balls - emphasis on the attempt.
    Each pupil then took a turn at throwing balls = Each pupil had several attempts at throwing balls - emphasis on “throwing balls” as a new activity.

    Each pupil then paired themselves with another pupil and, by turns, they tried to lift the weight or throw a ball = one pupil would be lifting the weight as the other was trying to throw the ball, then they would change places.

    A: Push the car!"
    B & C: "It will crash into that wall."
    A: "One of you steer and one of you push. Do it by turns."

    A: How did you get the car here?
    B&C: "We steered and pushed by turns." = a speaker's or narrator's description of the method used.

     

    Nodey

    Member
    English United States
    Hi there,
    I want to know the difference among the above three phrases when they are used to describe you do something in proper order or sequence.
    I do not have any context. Because at the first glance of their meaning in dictionary (English-Chinese), they seem the same to us.
    Could you just give me context and examples to distinguish among them? Thank you!
    Hi natasha_139,

    I'm a little confused by your question. Perhaps your dictionary is part of the problem. However, I will try to give you some examples.

    We have many things to do in order to complete this project. However, if we take each step in turn, we'll be able to finish by the deadline.
    In this sentence, in turn means that each step will be done in sequence, the next step being started only after the previous step has been completed.

    It was a long trip and my friend and I decided to take turns driving. First she would drive for 200 miles and then it was my turn to drive.
    In this sentence, take turns means to alternate a task between two or more people. In my example, there are only two people. However, you can use the term take turns with any number of people.

    When his parents were killed in a car accident, they left a lot a money and no plan for distributing it among their heirs. The oldest son was by turns angry, sad, and disgusted at the behavior of his family members as they fought over how much money each person would receive.
    In this sentence, by turns simply means that he experienced those emotions one at a time, in no particular order. The important thing is that he did not experience them all at the same time.

    Quite honestly, I have no idea what "to do" means in this context. It means nothing to me and sounds odd.

    Hope this was helpful.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Each pupil then took turns at throwing balls = Each pupil had several attempts at throwing balls - emphasis on the attempt.
    Each pupil then took a turn at throwing balls = Each pupil had several attempts at throwing balls - emphasis on “throwing balls” as a new activity.
    Hi,
    I don't quite get the difference between these two. I find it confusing that "took a turn" can refer to several attempts instead of one.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I agree: it would have been clearer as "Each pupil then took a turn at throwing balls = Each pupil had an attempt at throwing balls - emphasis on “throwing balls” as a new activity." - the point is thatthe example would have to be preceded by a description of another activity:

    "The pupils all ran for 200 metres. Each pupil then took a turn at throwing balls at a target."
     
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