There are... to / in

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sunyaer

Senior Member
Chinese
I found this sentence on IELTS.org website at http://www.ielts.org/test_takers_information/question_types/question_types_-_speaking.aspx

There are three parts to the test, and each part follows a specific pattern of tasks in order to test your speaking ability in different ways.

This sentence in an article titled Advanced Writing for ESL Students at http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/elc/Sample/Advanced/unit1/u1_l1a_1.htm

There are three parts to an introduction: the opening statement, the supporting sentences, and the introductory topic sentence.

Can the proposition "to" in "three parts to the test" and "three parts to an introduction" be replaced by "in"?
 
  • SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I think there is a difference between the two prepositions.

    There are three parts to this test. = This test is made up of three parts.
    There are three parts to an introduction.
    = An introduction is composed of three parts.

    I don't think that in works in this context. I'd say that in is more common in cases when we talk about specific parts that are of special interest to someone:

    There are two parts in this test that are easy: the second listening exercise and the multiple-choice questions. = Three particular questions on the test are easy.
    There are three parts in his introduction I didn't like.
    = I have three specific problems with his introduction.
     
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    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    When you use 'to' in such a context you are conveying a sense of completion and relation.

    Thus, 'there are three men to a boat' means that it's stipulated somewhere that there can be no more or less than three men in a boat.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    When you use 'to' in such a context you are conveying a sense of completion and relation.

    Thus, 'there are three men to a boat' means that it's stipulated somewhere that there can be no more or less than three men in a boat.
    While "there are three men in a boat" means "three men stay in a boat" in a descriptive way, not carrying any sense of stipulation, is that right?

    Similarly, "there are three parts to this test" carry the sense of the test being designed that way, and "there are three parts to an introduction" meaning an introduction ought to have three parts.

    However, I feel there is little difference between "there are three parts to this test" and "there are three parts in this test".
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    While "there are three men in a boat" means "three men stay in a boat" in a descriptive way, not carrying any sense of stipulation, is that right?
    They don't have to stay there, but for the statement to be true, they have to be there. However, you're right that there is no prescription or stipulation implied.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Similarly, "there are three parts to this test" carry the sense of the test being designed that way, and "there are three parts to an introduction" meaning an introduction ought to have three parts.
    Could you please comment on this?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    However, I feel there is little difference between "there are three parts to this test" and "there are three parts in this test".
    Well, there's one big difference: the first one sounds natural (as people have been telling you), while the second one, though understandable, is just not the right choice to express the relationship in question.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Well, there's one big difference: the first one sounds natural (as people have been telling you), while the second one, though understandable, is just not the right choice to express the relationship in question.
    What makes the second one not the right choice? "There are three parts in this test" means this test consists of three parts, doesn't it?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    What makes the second one not the right choice? "There are three parts in this test" means this test consists of three parts, doesn't it?
    The dictionary has the entry under "to"
    (used to express in; making up):There are 12 to the dozen.
    While "in" would not be an incorrect statement grammatically, it lacks the nuance of "making up" that is carried by the word "to" in this structure. Feel free to call it an idiom:D
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The dictionary has the entry under "to"

    While "in" would not be an incorrect statement grammatically, it lacks the nuance of "making up" that is carried by the word "to" in this structure. Feel free to call it an idiom:D
    Can we say "there are three buildings in the complex" or "there are three buildings to the complex"?

    Likewise, can we say "there are three sections in the park" or "there are three sections to the park"?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    You can say them but they won't mean exactly the same thing. The "in" versions simply mean "three X's are in the Y" while the "to" version (often/usually) means that the "Y is made up of three X's (and the implication that there is nothing else beyond the X's in the Y's).

    Thus, as an illustration of the nuance:
    "There are three buildings in the complex" (= and quite possibly a bunch of other stuff, trees lakes, roads etc)
    "There are three buildings to the complex" (=the complex comprises three buildings and likely nothing else).
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    You can say them but they won't mean exactly the same thing. The "in" versions simply mean "three X's are in the Y" while the "to" version (often/usually) means that the "Y is made up of three X's (and the implication that there is nothing else beyond the X's in the Y's).

    Thus, as an illustration of the nuance:
    "There are three buildings in the complex" (= and quite possibly a bunch of other stuff, trees lakes, roads etc)
    "There are three buildings to the complex" (=the complex comprises three buildings and likely nothing else).
    Very insightful and helpful interpretation, JulianStuart.

    "There are three buildings to the complex" (=the complex comprises three buildings and likely nothing else). It looks like these three buildings are linked closely together, is it right?

    What about the nuance of "there are three sections in the park" and "there are three sections to the park"?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Very insightful and helpful interpretation, JulianStuart.

    "There are three buildings to the complex" (=the complex comprises three buildings and likely nothing else). It looks like these three buildings are linked closely together, is it right?

    What about the nuance of "there are three sections in the park" and "there are three sections to the park"?
    You can probably guess what I'm going to say:D Again, an illustration of a possible nuance. The "in" version could describe three enclosed areas within the larger boundary of the park - each one referred to as a "section", but together they do not account for the whole area of the park. For the "to" version, there is nothing else besides the three sections.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Julian, your explanations hit the nail on the head. If I hadn't kept asking, my questions wouldn't have got answered.

    I have to ask for your comments on the nuance of "there are three parts to the test" and "there are three parts to an introduction", compared to the "in" version.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    It doesn't matter whether your sentence is about tests, introductions, boats, complexes, or parks. The difference between "X things to the ..." and "X things in the ..." is the same in all cases, and I wouldn't call it a nuance; they have distinctly different meanings. The phrase with "to" tells you the total number of things. The one with "in" tells you about a number of things that may or may not be the total.

    Ws
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    ... The phrase with "to" tells you the total number of things. The one with "in" tells you about a number of things that may or may not be the total.

    Ws
    But for "there are three parts in the test" and "there are three parts in an intruduction", what else would there be as part of the test or intrudction if the "three parts" might not be the total ?
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    That would depend on context.

    But imagine that your first example in post #1 (but with "in" instead of "to") is part of a conversation:

    - A: "Does any part of this test assess speaking ability?"
    - B: "There are three parts in the test, and each part follows a specific pattern of tasks in order to test your speaking ability in different ways."

    In this case, B's reply may mean "There are three parts in the test (that assess speaking ability)". There may be other parts of the test, but they don't assess speaking ability. The three parts B mentions are in the test; they aren't necessarily the whole of the test.

    If B said "There are three parts to the test, and each part follows a specific pattern of tasks in order to test your speaking ability in different ways", that would mean that the whole test is made up of three parts.

    I have, however, thought of one context where "to" and "in" are used pretty much interchangeably: when talking about measures. For example, "There are two pints to a quart" or "There are two pints in a quart".

    Ws
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    A and B are classmates. A attended an IB test while B didn't.

    A: "Did you go to the IB test yesterday?'

    B: "Oh, yes."

    A: "Was it hard? How many parts are there in an IB test?"


    Is the question asked by A "how many parts are there in an IB test" natural in the context? Should "in an IB test" be "to an IB test"?
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    So if B didn't attend, why did he lie to A?

    Apart from that, no, I don't find "How many parts are there in (or to) an IB test?" a very natural question. Unless the the word "part" had been specifically defined beforehand, I'd find it pretty meaningless, or at least vague. (It's a bit like "How many pieces of cake are there in a cake?")

    Ws
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    So if B didn't attend, why did he lie to A?
    ...
    Sorry about that. The dialogue should have been like this:

    B: "Did you go to the IB test yesterday?'

    A: "Oh, yes."

    B: "Was it hard? How many parts are there in an IB test?"

    I don't find "How many parts are there in (or to) an IB test?" a very natural question
    What would be a natural question about how many parts (or sections?) the test has?
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    In that dialogue, I can't imagine why I'd ask that question at all (just as I can't imagine asking, out of the blue, "How many parts does a cake have?", or "How long is a piece of string?"); so nothing would sound natural.

    Ws
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Standerized tests usually comprise various sections / parts, at least as far as I know. Assume IB test is one type of standerized test, when it comes to talking about it, I might want to know how the test questions are organized, such as how many sections / parts it has. I feel it's quite natural to ask this question regardless of what language the conversation is taking placing in.

    So it's not a matter of whether or not "how many parts are there in the test" should be asked, it's a matter of whether the preposition "in" is natural or not. Maybe the word "parts" is not the right choice here, please tell me.

    Am I making sense?
     
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    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    But unless I knew the significance of the division into parts, or sections, I still can't imagine what motive I'd have for asking that question, and I can't envisage myself asking it. Therefore I can't 'feel' that example as natural with either preposition.

    But in principle I don't see any difference between that IB example and all the others you've already had answers for.

    Ws
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    If I knew, that would suggest some preceding conversation. How I might ask such a question would depend on what that conversation was. But if I did have some reason to ask such a question, it would most probably follow the same principles as those already explained throughout this thread.

    Ws
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Assume a book contains 5 chapters and a preface.

    Which is correct: "there are 5 chapters in the book" or "there are 5 chapters to the book"?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Assume a book contains 5 chapters and a preface.

    Which is correct: "there are 5 chapters in the book" or "there are 5 chapters to the book"?
    The "in" version is correct. The analogy from my post above :

    The "in" version describes three enclosed areas within the larger boundary of the park - each one referred to as a "section" five chapters, but together they do not account for the whole area of the park book. For the "to" version, it means there is nothing else besides the three sections five chapters.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Which is correct: "there are 5 chapters in the book" or "there are 5 chapters to the book"?
    "In" is certainly correct.

    I can see JS's point; and I wouldn't use the "to" version myself in this case. However, it probably wouldn't shock me to hear it, because the book is essentially composed of chapters. The addition of a preface doesn't really alter the basic composition, and if the speaker considered the preface as incidental (as you might a flyleaf, an index, or a contents page), then "to" could still express the 'made up of' sense.

    Sunyaer, the basic difference between "in" and "to" in such sentences has been explained. You could go on inventing different examples ad infinitum, and each might have its own small variations in possible interpretation; but that won't alter the main principle.

    Ws
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "In" is certainly correct.

    I can see JS's point; and I wouldn't use the "to" version myself in this case. However, it probably wouldn't shock me to hear it, because the book is essentially composed of chapters. The addition of a preface doesn't really alter the basic composition, and if the speaker considered the preface as incidental (as you might a flyleaf, an index, or a contents page), then "to" could still express the 'made up of' sense.

    Sunyaer, the basic difference between "in" and "to" in such sentences has been explained. You could go on inventing different examples ad infinitum, and each might have its own small variations in possible interpretation; but that won't alter the main principle.

    Ws
    Indeed. We were given a context (set of assumptions:D) and I based the comment on the fact that those were specified.

    If some had shown me a book, with no prior conversation, and simply said to me either "There are five chapters in this book" or "There are five chapters to this book" I would not have thought to try to determine whether there was a foreword, preface, flyleaf, critic summaries or an index too. Different editions of the work will not always have the same "incidentals" and in many senses the "book" is what the author decides - they may consider a preface to be incidental and not included in the "book" etc.

    Edit: There were two typos in this post
     
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    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Indeed. We were given a context (set of assumptions:D) and I based the comment on the fact that those were specified.
    [...]
    So context is all. If someone said to me "the IELTS is an English level test and there are three parts in the test", I would not think there is another part beside these three parts in the test. I might think that there are some guidelines beside the three parts, which could be also thought of when "there are three parts to the test" is heard.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I understand the basic difference between the "in" and "to" versions. But sometimes I have a feeling that the "to" version is too technical as it creates a sense of excluding any other attached additions which are considered standard composition in some contexts, such as the "book" example. Both of Wordsmyth and Julian have expressed their preference of using the "to" version.

    The reason why the "in" version sounds a bit less technical and therefore less informal in "the IELTS is an English level test and there are three parts in the test" is that this sentence doesn't exclude some possible test instructions in the test while the "to" version might. If an IELTS examiner explained the IELTS test to you saying "the IELTS is an English level test and there are three parts in the test", would you think there might be some other part in the test?

    If I heard "there are three parts in the IELTS test" , I would not think there may be some other sections that would be considered as a part besides these three parts, as would I not think there may be any other structures that would be qualified as a building when I heard "there are three buildings in the complex", though I would think that there might be other areas, such as playgrounds, roads.

    I'v randomly asked a few other native speakers about this. I have been told the technical concept of the "to" version.

    Please comment on my thoughts above.
     
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    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Both of Wordsmyth and Julian have expressed their preference of using the "to" version.
    Have I? Where? I thought I'd suggested that each has its own merits.
    If an IELTS examiner explained the IELTS test to you saying "the IELTS is an English level test and there are three parts in the test", would you think there might be some other part in the test?
    Probably not, in that particular context, and if nothing else were said to make me think that. But it's the context that leads to the interpretation (the examiner is obviously explaining the composition of the test), not the choice of the word "in".
    But sometimes I have a feeling that the "to" version is too technical [...]
    I see nothing 'technical' about "to". It expresses one idea; "in" expresses another. Sometimes they may overlap. But there are plenty of instances of that construction where you couldn't replace "to" by "in". It's not a question of formality, but one of meaning.

    Ws
    [Edit: Added last sentence of 2nd para.]
     
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