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The free dictionary provides two definitions for "rich with" and "rich in".

  • rich with: having a lot of something; abundant in something
  • rich in: having valuable resources, characteristics, traditions, or history

It seems like the differences between the two definitions is rather subtle. My understanding is the following. The former case means that an object contains a lot of something (and we don't know anything about the quality of this something). The latter means that the object contains something which is valuable (and we don't know how many instances of this something our object contains).

Is this observation correct? Can someone clarify the difference and provide some further references?

The context of this questions is that I want to write something like "The literature is rich in/with examples".

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I can't immediately think of an instance where I would you 'rich with' rather than 'rich in'. It doesn't mean 'rich with' is incorrect, just that I think 'rich in' covers instances where you could use 'rich with'. And in my view 'rich-in' does the job better. –  WS2 Dec 4 '13 at 12:18
    
The only instance I can think of for one of these uses is when someone is describing a breakfast cereal or such. "Rich in Iron" link –  Secret Squirrel Dec 4 '13 at 13:04

1 Answer 1

Rich with does, I suggest, say something about the quality of something, and that quality is almost always positive.

He's rich with things that money cannot buy: friendships, supportive relatives, and a spouse who encourages him each step of the way.

The above sentence uses the word rich in a positive way, and doing so would seem to be the norm. I would not link the words rich with with negative things.

Maybe I betray a certain cultural bias in linking rich to only positive things, as if to be rich is necessarily a good thing. On the other hand, if irony is the reason for the link between rich with and the negative things, then the linkage would make sense, and to be rich is not necessarily a good thing. For example, if the "she," above, has great wealth, but her character leaves little to be desired, I might say ironically,

"Oh, she's rich all right. She's rich with a nasty disposition, a passel of enemies, and a cheapness that beggars description."

"Rich in" can be used, I suggest, in many of the same ways its counterpart "rich with" can be used, as in

The sub-Saharan country is rich in oil, manganese, and semi-precious stones,

or

Jim is rich in kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness,

or

Sally is rich in friends, cheerleaders, and supporters.

In conclusion, "rich in" and "rich with" are virtually interchangeable. As for

The literature is rich with/in examples,

I suggest you be guided by whichever word sounds better to you, since they're both, as I said, virtually interchangeable.

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