English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the context of decision-making, I'm looking for a word that describes the relation of two values: "even if value a increases, value b decreases". For this relation, I have found ratio, proportion, rate and relation. Which is the most suitable, when I want to use it in the following sentence: "To weigh out possible advantages, ??? between the values have to be established"?

share|improve this question
a and b are inversely proportional See here – SmokerAtStadium Mar 21 '13 at 16:52
@Radu, that is not clear from the question. "even if value a increases, value b decreases" is stated. But maybe if value a decreases, value b would decrease even faster... – GEdgar Mar 21 '13 at 17:32
That would be black magic! – SmokerAtStadium Mar 21 '13 at 18:30

The relation you specify is an "inverse dependency" or an "inverse proportion".

share|improve this answer

The even if phrase at the beginning of “even if value a increases, value b decreases” suggests that value b decreases independently of what value a does. The phrase could be used in a sentence like “In previous times, b followed a; but in this time frame, even when a increases, b decreases.”

If instead you mean to say that increase in a implies decrease in b, and conversely when a decreases, you can say b changes oppositely to a, and might say b changes inversely to a. However, inverse typically refers to a multiplicative inverse. If a·b = k for some constant k, then a and b are inversely related. If instead a+b = k, you might speak of a zero-sum game.

In the sentence you ask about, none of ratio, proportion, rate, relation, inverse, opposite, zero-sum or variants thereof are appropriate. Instead write

To maximize advantage, tradeoffs between values must be established.

A tradeoff is “An advantage or improvement that necessitates the corresponding loss or degradation of something else”.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.