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I rather like this construct, as exemplified by “a three-pronged approach to physical therapy” (or four-pronged, or whatever). However, I tend to use it too much, and I am wondering how I could replace it by other short constructs with the same meaning. So, I wonder:

  • Does “a three-fold approach to…” have the same meaning? I think it does, as my dictionary says of the -fold suffix: “consisting of so many parts or facets”.
  • Do you know other ways to express this in only two or three words? It being a short adjectival phrase is useful to me.
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@Marta: thanks for your edit. I'm amazed that it's example, but examplified. – F'x Mar 22 '11 at 14:37
up vote 3 down vote accepted

How about "tripartite"? There is also "bipartite" for two, but it doesn't generalize to higher numbers.

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You could say a multi-pronged approach.

The -fold suffix is reliable. See my answer to a different question.

You could also refer to different fronts:

We'll approach the therapy on three fronts.

This comes from military terminology (as does pronged, I believe). You can also use these words with attack as the verb.

Or you could simply use parts:

We took a three-part approach to the patient's therapy.

And finally there is facet.

We took a multi-faceted approach to the patient's therapy.

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Sorry for the confusion, I wasn't looking for a substitute for generic n, just with a specific value like three. I've edited the question accordingly. – F'x Mar 19 '11 at 12:21
Several parts of my answer cover use of specific values as well. Do see the link to the -fold answer as well. – Robusto Mar 19 '11 at 12:23
indeed, it's still a worthy answer, thanks – F'x Mar 19 '11 at 12:26

If you can be creative, how about a trifecta, the hattrick or the triple Lindy of _. Adds a spark of humor as well.

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Please explain how these words address the question. And what does "Lindy of _" mean? – TrevorD Aug 3 '13 at 23:47

I suggest "trident" (2 distinct syllables). As an adjective, "tri-dent" (meaning "three toothed" or "three pronged") gives the exact meaning you want in a very compact form: "His trident approach to the problem proved very effective".

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Tridentate is the alternative you seek.

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Hello, Tridentate. It's not an alternative I'd use. And the handful of Google examples of "tridentate approach" seem confined to the 90+%-literal chemical usage. Idiomaticity, as well as overlap of meaning, is important in English. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 20 '15 at 8:31
Yes, it sounds somewhat ridiculous to me. Can you provide an example of the word being used this way? – sumelic Jun 20 '15 at 9:25

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