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In what ways are differ to, differ with and differ from different?

Providing examples would be really appreciated.

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  • I guess the versus tag would be really good after a while it would consist lots of questions like this which I believe are really informative and useful.
    – Mysterion
    Aug 16, 2010 at 15:29
  • 2
    Note that there is no idiom that uses "differ to", as indicated by Mepher's answer. Aug 16, 2010 at 17:43
  • @JSBձոգչ I'm fairly sure I've heard Britons say "X is different to Y"
    – iconoclast
    Jan 17 at 20:57

3 Answers 3

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Macmillan Dictionary gives a definition of "differ" together with good examples:

  1. to be different from something else

    differ in: The two animals come from the same family but differ in body shape and breeding habits.

    differ from: English differs from Spanish in that it is not pronounced as it is written.

    differ widely/significantly/greatly (=be very different): Laws on pollution differ widely from one country to another.

    differ from something to something: The techniques used differ from company to company.

  2. to disagree with someone about a subject

    differ on/over: Experts differ on the causes of the disease.

    opinions/views differ: Opinions differ as to the likely winner of the tournament.

    differ with: Baker also differed with members of Congress over this issue.

    beg to differ (=disagree): I beg to differ with you a bit there.

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Mehper's answer is comprehensive, but if you want to settle on one I would recommend "differ from". The thing to remember is that we are talking about the opposite of being similar to something. Since "to" and "from" are opposites, it's logical that the opposite of "(be) similar to" is "differ(ent) from".

I know that English isn't always logical but in this case it conforms nicely. As an aside, a real pet hate of mine is "different than" - it makes me wince every time I see or hear it!

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Actually, the word you're looking for is defer, which means "to put-off/delay", or when used in the idiom "defer to" with an object, "to yield (to) or comply (with) the wishes or judgments of another: I defer to your superior knowledge."

See: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/defer

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  • 2
    What makes you think that they were looking for defer?
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 31, 2013 at 15:58
  • Differ and defer can be confused easily because they sound similar. I'm here for this exact reason! So this was a very helpful answer to me. Although, I admit this does not answer the question above.
    – Ge To
    Aug 28, 2021 at 20:28

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