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It strikes me as odd to use "indifferent between" rather than "indifferent to", but am having a hard time rephrasing the sentence so that it includes both options.

The structure of the sentence I'm looking at is:

"X is indifferent between doing Y and doing Z"

Now of course the fact that X is indifferent could allow me to write something like, "X is indifferent as to the future course of action", but I want to include the two options (not least since there may be more options to which X is not indifferent).

I suppose there are two questions here:

  1. Is "indifferent between" truly ungrammatical?

  2. How can I more elegantly phrase such a sentence?

Edit: Since I now see that my simplified example doesn't quite explain what I'm asking, the actual sentence I'm looking at is:

The risk adjustment should reflect the compensation that an insurer requires for bearing this uncertainty and reflects the point at which the insurance company is indifferent between fulfilling an insurance contract with a range of possible outcomes and fulfilling a liability with fixed cash flows.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

A regular Google search gives about 350,000 hits for ‘indifferent between’, while a Google books search gives about 120,000 hits.

I cannot find any dictionary entries that include examples or citations with this usage, but it does appear to be in actual use, if not all that common.

As such, I wouldn’t classify it as ‘truly ungrammatical’, but rather perhaps as ‘best avoided in contexts where you wish to steer clear of potentially controversial grammar’.

In your particular phrase, I would suggest:

X is indifferent to whether (we do/he does/etc.) Y or Z

Or, even more plainly spoken:

X does not care whether (we do/he does/etc.) Y or Z


Edit to reflect edited question:

With the context now known, I would suggest recasting the sentence as follows (vel sim):

The risk adjustment should reflect the compensation that an insurer requires for bearing this uncertainty and reflects the point at which the insurance company considers fulfilling an insurance contract with a range of possible outcomes and fulfilling a liability with fixed cash flows (to be) equal options.

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Brilliant, I really was blocked on that - I think I just had the word "indifferent" in my head and couldn't see how to fornmulate a sentence without it. Many thanks! –  Matt Jul 24 '13 at 11:26

In the longer example in the question, “indifferent between” seems a better phrase than “indifferent to”, but as shown in previous answers, more felicitous wordings exist. However, if you want to retain a form of indifferent, consider

The risk adjustment should reflect the compensation that an insurer requires for bearing this uncertainty and reflects the point at which the insurance company may, indifferently, fulfill an insurance contract with a range of possible outcomes, or fulfill a liability with fixed cash flows.

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I would suggest:

X is indifferent towards the options Y and Z.

As regards options Y and Z, X has no preference/is indifferent.

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-1 I think that at least your first suggestion means that X is indifferent towards both of them, and not that X is indifferent regarding the choice between them. –  TrevorD Jul 24 '13 at 13:00

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