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If I were to write an intro for a protagonist in say, a game, would I say he/she is the "protagonist of [title]" or the "protagonist in [title]"? Or does it matter?

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    Have you bothered to look in any dictionaries, which give examples of usage, such as ODO, Longman, Chambers, M-W? Please do some basic research of your own before asking questions here, as indicated in the Help & FAQ.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 1 '13 at 23:03
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    Hmm. My question wasn't really directed specifically to the word "protagonist", but more of the article usage "in" and "of". I wanted to know exactly why the articles would weigh one over the other. But eh. Whatever.
    – Jacedc
    Aug 1 '13 at 23:06
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    Then please edit your question to ask exactly what you do want to know.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 1 '13 at 23:11
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    @ Jacedc: I think it's a good question. The long and short of it for your purposes is probably it doesn't matter. Personally I think I'd choose in for a game, but that might be because overall I don't rate games so highly. I might be more likely to choose of if it was, say, Hamlet is the protagonist of the play (of the same name! :). Or without the repetition, I'd say Prospero is the protagonist of The Tempest. Preliminary checks with Google suggest that on average others do the same. Aug 2 '13 at 2:27
  • Thanks @FumbleFingers and @ TrevorD, I understand, I should have been more specific but I wanted to get straight to the point. But it's noted. Thanks.
    – Jacedc
    Aug 2 '13 at 5:27
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I don't understand the downvotes, and I really don't think this kind of distinction could easily be found by "basic research" with dictionaries/grammar guides. Look at the actual usage pattern...

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Note that the pattern for definite article usage is slightly different...

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All that accords with my own gut feelings - there's not much to choose between them, but overall, of is more common (particularly when the "protagonist" is the only one).

I think that's because when you say someone is of somewhere, there are more connotations that they represent that place (or movie, or game, or whatever). If you say they're in it, I get more the sense that they just happen to be there (as well as being in other movies/games, maybe).

But it all gets a bit vague when you consider very closely related contexts. For me at least, if there's anything at all to choose between...

1: He's the lead singer in [someband1]
and
2: He's the lead singer of [someband2]

...I think I'd say either someband1 is less famous than someband2, or for some other reason the role of "lead singer" is less significant in the context of what someband1 is all about.


In short, it's all highly subjective. There's not really any grammatical issue involved - just idiomatic preference, which is gradually shifting from of to in overall. My opinions on possible distinctions in meaning (actually, just "almost imperceptible nuances") are just that - opinions.

Of course, other prepositions can be used. From, for example. And lead singers are often out of [someband] these days (but probably not protagonists so often). I don't feel quite so comfortable with that one, but I can't argue with the fact that it's increasingly common.

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  • Thank you! That's what I wanted to know. In writing articles I try to be a structurally neat as possible and I was curious. Thanks!
    – Jacedc
    Aug 2 '13 at 5:26
  • @Jacedc: Apparently four people have closevoted as "General Reference", which baffles me. I honestly don't see how you could hope to "look up" the "unambiguously correct" answer to this one. I could have drivelled on some more about possible nuances in closely-related contexts, but at the end of the day all that would be more opinions. You can make up your own mind whether to use in or of if one sounds "better" to you than the other. Neither choice could meaningfully be called "wrong", but it's a racing cert some nouns will favour one more than the other, on average. Aug 2 '13 at 14:35
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"In" suggests area, place, or context - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/in (Items # 1 & 2).

"Of" suggests motivation or reason - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/of (Item #3).

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    I'm not sure there's much connection between dying of hunger and being a protagonist of/in a game. Aug 2 '13 at 2:28

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