There can be asymmetric relations between two entities. E.g. Parent-child. Both entities are related, but neither relates to the other as the other relates to it.

I'm writing a philosophy paper that treats these kinds of relations in an abstract manner. Consequently the words I'll be using to reference related entities will not convey any information about the relation they bear to each other (e.g. parent-child).

That said, I've used the parent-child relation in the following example to make it more concrete.

Example: 'The wording, 'x is the parent of y', references a 1:1 asymmetric relation from x to y.'

I used from and to to construct that sentence; however, I'm not confident that those are the best prepositions in this case. What preposition(s) do you think are best in this case?

Some other possibilities

  • ...that x bears to y
  • ...of x to y (credit: Mari-Lou A)
  • ...that x has to y
  • 1
    Why not just do as you did in the title and use between … and? Dec 2 '13 at 18:24
  • @Janus 'between' doesn't disambiguate the direction of the relation.
    – Hal
    Dec 2 '13 at 19:11
  • 1
    From and to seem fine to me, but there may be terms of art used within this branch of philosophy that would be worth emulating, whether the plain English meaning seems fine or not.
    – Jon Hanna
    Dec 2 '13 at 20:36
  • 3
    ... asymmetric relation x is to y. The relationship parent is to child (??) OR relation of x to y. Just brainstorming, you might or might not agree. FWIW "from" and "to" sound OK to me. By the way, "the most best" is over the top :) I'm sure you just meant, "best" or the "most appropriate/suitable".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 2 '13 at 21:34
  • @Mari-LouA "most best" I'm so ashamed. =) Yes you're right: I think I was going for 'most appropriate' before I opted for 'best'. I also thought about of x to y, and I liked it too. Given that you also like it. I might go with that instead.
    – Hal
    Dec 2 '13 at 22:17

I feel I might not understand what you actually want from your question. Even though, this answer might be way off from what you need, it should be beneficial to you to remind you of the diversity and complexity of relationships you have to consider.

I am tempted to urge you to perceive this as a mathematical issue concerning topology and sets.

Perhaps, you might already be aware ...

Your first concern is commutativity.

If A operand B produces the same result as B operand A, than operand is commutative.

For example

  • A plus B = B plus A. Addition is a commutative operand.
  • A divided by B is not the same as B divided by A. Division is not commutative.

Next is membership. For example

  • B is a member of A.
  • C is child of D.
  • E1 is a dependent of E2.
  • His concept is an extension of mine.
  • Area is the integral of a shape.
  • Acceleration is a derivative of velocity.

We might also have to consider referential relationship or indirection.

  • A references B
  • Jonathan is the name of her brother.
  • This is a copy of the original
  • X population is correlated to Y population

Symmetrical relationship is a loaded term. You should try to use the term non-commutative relationship when you actually mean so.

For example, these are symmetrical relationships

  • There are as many houses as there are cars per owner.
  • A friend of yours is a friend of mine

These are asymmetrical relationships:

  • For inflation to occur, demand must outstrip supply.
  • There are more women than men in the world.

There should not exist a single term you could use to abstract the relationships you might wish to describe.

Therefore, the following could be used to genericize a relationship from revealing if it is a parent-child or child-parent, plus or minus or divide, etc

  • A and B are in a non-commutative interaction.
  • There exists a dependency between C and D.
  • The dynamics between rich and poor are asymmetric.
  • There is correlation between the two occurrences.
  • A complementary relationship exists

I realise you might insist on being given some prepositional clauses. Therefore having the comprehension of the diversity of relationships, here are examples

  • Women were correlated against men in the survey.
  • Racial equal-opportunities were contraindicated by the survey.
  • Process A is dependent on process B.
  • Process C is consequent to process D.
  • The contradiction was commuted by the presence of your solution.
  • The election results indicate asymmetric preference of the public towards Republicans and Democrats
  • In China, there is asymmetric preference between having male and female babies.
  • There is a sense of indirection among the various clans when it comes to who is actually in charge of the village.
  • Very cool. Thank you for this. In fact, I have been thinking about this in terms of mathematical relations. But I didn't know about all the relational properties you wrote about in your post. Some of those were helpful. Thank you.
    – Hal
    Dec 3 '13 at 13:29

Do you intend to simply state that a relationship between two things exists without shedding light at all on the details of that relationship? If so, I would just say

  • "x shares a relationship with y"
  • "x and y have relational characteristics"
  • -"x is associated with y"
  • -"x has a correlation with y"
  • The relation is such that if you were to switch the position of the two related entities in the sentence, the sentence would be inaccurate. E.g. A mother -is a parent of- a child vs. a child -is a parent of- a mother. So your suggestions aren't inaccurate, but they don't convey the asymmetry of the relation, so they aren't as precise as what I hope to find.
    – Hal
    Dec 2 '13 at 22:20
  • Perhaps "mutually exclusive" or "disparately related". Maybe even "antipodal relationship" based on your parent-child example
    – Justin
    Dec 2 '13 at 22:36
  • The same idea is referenced with asymmetrical. But I had to look up antipodal; thanks for the new word.
    – Hal
    Dec 2 '13 at 22:42

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