using the word "respectively"

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pandasi

New Member
Venezuela, español
Can the word respectively only be used to describe a situation with 2 elements in the subject?

E.g. John and Bill are American and Canadian, respectively. (OK)

Maybe I'm totally wrong, but I think I remember hearing that having more than two elements would require wording the sentence differently.

E.g. John, Bill and Sam are American, Canadian and British, respectively. (Wrong?)

I know I could say, "John, Bill and Sam are American, Canadian and British, in that order." But that still doesn't answer the first question.
 
  • dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I would not use a comma before "respectively" (at least in you first sentence).
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    I thought the reason why we use the word "respectively" is exactly because there are too many things/people mentioned at the same time?:confused: (In other words, why do you think there is a limit of the number?)
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    E.g. John and Bill are American and Canadian, respectively.

    John is American and Bill is Canadian.
     

    pandasi

    New Member
    Venezuela, español
    So it seems that there is no limit! I was told once that the word should only be used with 2 things/people. But it appears that that's was completely wrong. Well, that answers that question... Thanks to all!

    However, dn88, I think that the comma should be added before "respectively". Maybe I'm also wrong in that respect? :eek:
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So it seems that there is no limit! I was told once that the word should only be used with 2 things/people. But it appears that that's was completely wrong. Well, that answers that question... Thanks to all!

    However, dn88, I think that the comma should be added before "respectively". Maybe I'm also wrong in that respect? :eek:
    I'm not versed enough in grammatical nuances to decide whether there should be a comma or not, the only solution to this problem I can think of now is changing the word order (in this way we can easily get rid of that comma). :)

    John and Bill are respectively American and Canadian.

    It works I think. :D
     

    C. E. Whitehead

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I'd say:

    "John and Bill are, respectively, American and Canadian"

    So you are right, a comma is best;
    and I think this sentence is better than
    "John and Bill are American and Canadian, respectively."

    You want to keep "respectively" close to "John and Bill" since that is what it modifies!
    --C. E. Whitehead
     
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