I have a little problem of understanding how to pick the preposition of "at" ,"of" or "in" in Illogical comparative : e.g.

The climate in the north is colder than that of the south.

Why do we us "of" the south instead of "in" the south.
I am thinking it should be

The climate in the north is colder than the climate in the south.

So why "of" ?

  • 1
    Nothing at all is wrong with: "The climate in the north is colder than that in the south"; " The climate of the north is colder than that of the south".
    – F.E.
    Jun 11, 2014 at 5:57
  • 1
    But all the more is wrong with mixing the the two... I would say "we" do normally not use "of the south" when we used "in the north". Where did you get the impression that "we" would do that?
    – oerkelens
    Jun 11, 2014 at 6:47
  • @brasshat - your edit removed the example sentence but left in a reference to that example. Overall I think you removed the core of the question.
    – oerkelens
    Jun 11, 2014 at 7:47
  • oerkelens, another example of "click too soon" syndrome, I fear.
    – brasshat
    Jun 11, 2014 at 7:58
  • YOU"RE MISREADING the implication in the original (which it would have helped greatly to link to). 'The climate in the north is colder than that of the south.' IS NOT AN 'illogical comparative'. From the original: Remember that comparisons must be made with logically comparable nouns. <<3. The audience is much larger than last year's concert.>> is what they call an 'illogical comparative'. Jun 11, 2014 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


The question by the OP is based loosely on material from this page.

The choice of "at", "in", or "of" is often more a matter of nuance than essence. I'd suggest that "at" tends to convey a sense of specificity, as in "Price the carrots at 69 cents per pound", or "The temperature at Toronto is 15 degrees C.", while "in" tends to convey a sense of membership, as in "Kansas is in the United States", while "of" tends to convey a sense of characteristics of a group, "That is a herd of Hereford cattle>". But I don't think that the difference in nuance is enough to make one a hard and fast choice in any particular situation, and can be overridden by any number of considerations, including euphony.


toeflstructure in its problems with comparatives exercises has no problems with the choice of different prepositions here:

Correct: The food in my country is very different from that of the United States.

(explanatory bracketing removed)

The climate in the north is colder than that of the south.

And neither do I.

I'd say the preposition choice sounds more natural than in + in, of + of, and certainly of + in. Not strictly logical at first sight, but slight imbalances can be meaningful rather than confusing.

  • Generally I agree, especially in these simple examples (in a more complex sentence involving more uses of "in" and/or "of" it could be good practice to repeat the same preposition so as to help make the structure clear). It's worth noting also that in the food example, "in" and "of" actually mean different things more clearly than in the climate one (food in a country doesn't have to be food of that country).
    – Rupe
    Jun 11, 2014 at 9:10
  • Yes. With 'The climate in the north is colder than that of the south', building on brasshat's answer, I'd say that the 'in' conveys not just a sense of membership, but of membership of a cosy community. I wonder if an Aussie would reverse the prepositions? Jun 11, 2014 at 9:24
  • They'd probably reverse the compass points, at least. Jun 11, 2014 at 10:05
  • @oerkelens I'm a bit confused here, I use "we" because I've been learning it from Grammar book, so that I think it's normal to use "of". Are you saying that this isn't the case ?
    – malianto
    Jun 14, 2014 at 11:04
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    @malianto (re comment 2 comments above) (You've commented in the wrong place, but never mind.) oerkelens is giving a rule-of-thumb that it would be sensible always to keep in mind. It's good to aim for balance in parallel constructions. But not essential or even always correct: The biscuits on the plate are not as fresh as those in the tin. With The climate in the north is colder than that of the south', you need a decent(-ish) reason to switch prepositions, and some of us accept that there is one here. Repeating 'in' would cause no native speaker any problems, though. Jun 14, 2014 at 11:11

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