What is the difference of "to account for something" and "take something into account"?


a) Spatial regression models must take into account spatial dependence.

b) The search for regional characteristics should take place using spatial econometric methods that account for spatial dependence.

Are both examples correct? What is the difference in usage of account for/take into account in the example sentences?

  • 1
    Have you tried using an online dictionary? This one, collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english, has entries for both expressions, – tunny Nov 7 '14 at 10:48
  • Yes, it has entries. But I don't get it. It seems to me that the terms can be used almost interchangeably. – Julian Nov 7 '14 at 12:08
  • @'Julian. It seems to me that there is quite a difference between give reasons for (an event, act, etc) and take into consideration; allow for. In your first sentence, one needs to think about spatial dependence when one creates spatial regression models. In the second sentence, the spatial econometric methods need to explain, give a reason for, the existence of spatial dependence. – tunny Nov 7 '14 at 12:18

'Take into account' is used in contexts where an entity is regarded/considered/given thought for an operation/action.

Eg: A football club must take into account the fans' feelings before selling off their star player.

'Account for' refers to provisioning for an entity's involvement in an action/operation.

Eg: A good football club must account for player salaries when preparing their annual budget.

The key difference is the tone implied by the two phrases. When you 'take something into account' you take it into consideration while performing an action.
If you have to 'account for something', you have to make clear provisions for it during your action.

Let's look at the following to sentences:

1. A football club must take into account the fans' feelings before selling off their star player.

2. A good football club must account for fans' feelings before selling off their star player.

Sentence 1 implies that a football club must give thought to the fans' feelings before selling their star player. The club should consider the fans' emotions and morale before they go ahead with the player sale.

Sentence 2 implies that a good football club must make provisions for the damage incurred by fans' feelings due to the sale. The club could either make another star signing or reduce ticket rates or do something to account for the fans' feelings.


Account for something = explain its presence.

Take something into account = treat it as a significant factor (in some plan or process).

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