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“Solution for” or “solution to” a problem?

My problematic phrase is this:

More and more patients from other states and countries sought here the solution __ their illness.

I found it with "for", but switching for "to" sounds better.

So which one is correct?

  1. More and more patients from other states and countries sought here the solution for their illness.
  2. More and more patients from other states and countries sought here the solution to their illness.
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marked as duplicate by Hellion, FumbleFingers, Thursagen, RegDwigнt Aug 1 '11 at 9:52

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3 Answers

I'd suggest that the patients sought a cure for their illness, which would be more idiomatic. I don't think anyone would call a cure a solution in these circumstances. But I can't find any authority for this answer; it just seems more natural from my (native English speaker) perspective.

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I get what you mean by cure, but it's not always possible, so a solution would be something to ease the illness, I think. This phrase is from a cancer text so it kind of makes sense. And about the phrases, would it be the one with "for" the correct one then ? –  user11511 Jul 31 '11 at 17:37
    
@user11511; good point. One might call it a palliative in that case; I'd suggest it would be a palliative for, not a palliative to. –  Brian Hooper Jul 31 '11 at 18:07
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As has been pointed out, "solution" isn't a particularly good word to use in this context. Better would be "cure" or "treatment".

In a more "valid" sentence such as...

More people now use equity release as the solution to their financial problems.

...using "to" is more common that "for" (by about 2 to 1, if NGram is to be believed), but I don't think either usage is actually "more correct". To my mind it's mainly a matter of style.

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It doesn't sound natural to say "solution for an illness." If the solution cures the illness, then you'd say "cure for an illness.

That said, there are often cases, AIDS for exmaple, where there is no known cure, but there are ways to slow the illness down or mitigate its effects. In this case it would be a much more clear use of language to talk about a "treatment for" rather than a solution for.

In the latter case, "solution for" could work, but it's a bastardization of the language that stems from the corporate world where many companies stopped talking about selling "products" but rather about selling "solutions."

Problems and equations have "solutions," whereas illnesses have "cures" and "treatments." All other things being equal, it's best to use the right word for the job.

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