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  • Do you remember the lyrics to the song?
  • Do you remember the lyrics of the song?

I'm more familiar with the second sentence using the "of". But what I don't know is, how would you interpret both of these sentences in the grammatical sense? Do both of these sentences express a relation between lyrics and songs?

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Just to add to your confusion, it is also possible to talk about "the lyrics for that song". ]:-) –  Marthaª May 17 '12 at 19:27
    
possible duplicate of "Lyrics to a song" vs. "lyrics of a song" –  jwpat7 Jun 23 '12 at 5:55

5 Answers 5

up vote 0 down vote accepted

To "remember the lyrics of a song," expresses the idea of lyrics being a characteristic, or possession:

  • The lyrics of the song
  • The color of the car
  • The brand of the monitor
  • A species of animal

As though lyrics are a characteristic of a song, and you're asking whether one knows that characteristic, or as though this particular song contains a set of lyrics, and you're asking whether one knows the lyrics the song contains, thereby asking whether one "knows the lyrics of the song."

To "remember the lyrics to the song," would express the idea of a connection, showing that with this particular song, comes a set a lyrics connected. Asking whether one remembers the lyrics to the song, would be the same idea as asking whether one knows the lyrics that comes with the song.

  • "Do you know the lyrics to the song?"
  • "Do you know the tune to the song?"

They'll both do you justice, but some may be more favourable than others depending on your preferences. For example, asking whether one knows "the brand to this monitor" sounds a bit odd, at least to me.

Hope this helps.

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Semantically, 'lyrics of the song' is different from 'lyrics to the song'.

of implies lyrics as part of what you are referring to as 'song': "I like the lyrics of this song more than its tune."

On the other hand,
to implies lyrics as a complement of what you are referring to as a song: "Nice tune -- wish I knew the lyrics to this song". "Do you know who has written the lyrics to this song?"

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I'm a US-born English speaker, and the two sentences have the same meaning to me. Other similar instances of to/of I can think of:

  • rules to/of the game
  • outline to/of the Constitution
  • cover to/of the book

To in these cases is like belonging to.

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Both "to" and "of" here are prepositions. From the OED, the usage of "of" in the first sentence is in the sense,

X. Expressing possession and being possessed.

In particular, definition 35. a:

Belonging to a person or thing, as something that he, she, or it has or possesses.

1954 D. Abse Ash on Young Man's Sleeve 65 He buckled the bumper of the car.

Note that here, the lyrics of the song is largely interchangeable with the song's lyrics. The idea is that the song is taken as a whole unit, and the lyrics are a constituent element.

Correspondingly, the usage of "to" in the second sentence is in the sense,

V. Indicating addition, attachment, accompaniment, appurtenance, possession.

In particular, definition 15. b:

To the accompaniment of; as an accompaniment to; also indicating the tune to which words are set;

1906 H. Belloc Hills & Sea 116 The two trumpets of the battery sounding the call which is known among French gunners as ‘the eighty hunters’, because the words to it are ‘Quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt‥chasseurs’.

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I like what you did for "to" - what about doing the same for "of"? –  J.R. May 20 '12 at 10:49
    
@J.R. done and done. –  Cameron May 20 '12 at 17:11

Actually, I believe it is most often phrased as "lyrics for the song".

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1  
Not according to the NGram for "lyrics of/for/to the song". –  JLG May 18 '12 at 2:50

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