English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Do we fit data with, by, or as a linear function?

share|improve this question
up vote 10 down vote accepted

None of those: we fit data to a function. See the usage throughout Wolfram Alpha, for example.

share|improve this answer
I thought of that one as well; what stopped me from including this is that it seemed a bit illogical to me in the sense that fitting data to a function sounds like I'm actually altering the data to fit better. – Lev Levitsky Aug 24 '12 at 20:22
@LevLevitsky Ah, I see what you are saying; but native speakers would not interpret it that way, and the language is quite standardized. We say "the curve fits the data" and "we fit data to the curve". – Mark Beadles Aug 24 '12 at 20:24
I see, thanks for [the?] clarification :) – Lev Levitsky Aug 24 '12 at 20:27

I would say you fit a function or model to the data, rather than the other way around. Or you find a model that fits the data.

share|improve this answer
Very nice answer! It is grammatically and contextually correct. And I actually smiled after reading the second sentence. – Ellie Kesselman Aug 25 '12 at 9:58

It's kind of weird for me to say "fit data to a function". I don't think there is a big difference either way, but I prefer "fit a function to the data" and I think this latter way is the form I've always heard or read.

I think of it like how a tailor "fits" a dress or suite to a person's body, where the measurements are the data and the clothing piece is the function.

share|improve this answer
I also said that :) – user1928 Aug 25 '12 at 2:43
@JenniferDylan Can you post a cross-reference to this question on mathSE, thanks. – Kris Aug 25 '12 at 8:56
@Kris it's linked here. – user1928 Aug 25 '12 at 14:22

Actually, you don't do anything to data, which is the point to note.

You could say 'the data obeys/ conforms to/ or even fits, a (linear) function.'

It's important to note the difference between the inherent nature of the data and actions performed on the data.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.