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We have a sign on a door at work which slams when people aren't careful. It originally read:

Please be considerate of those here and close this door quietly.

Someone crossed out the of and changed it to to.

My question is: which variant is more correct?

  • I would actually prefer either: "Please be considerate of those who are here and close this door quietly" or "Please be considerate to those who are here and close this door quietly" – Paul Amerigo Pajo Jan 13 '15 at 21:10
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TL;DR - they're both right. It's never wrong to use of, but there are some times when to is inappropriate. This is not one of them.

I thought I knew the answer to this and then I thought about it some more and now I'm not sure and now I'm tearing my hair out. It's a good question.

First thoughts: I would say towards or toward, which means that to is probably better than of.

Second thoughts: But of is clearly the better option in some circumstances. It would be ridiculous to say please be considerate to the noise of the slamming door, but ...of the noise of the slamming door would make perfect sense.

Third thoughts: But why is that? The sign is asking you to consider both those here and (implicitly) the noise of the slamming door. There's no inequality in this construction.

Fourth thoughts: Unless you take be considerate as equivalent to act with consideration, in which case you should act with consideration towards those here by acting with consideration of the noise of the slamming door.

Fifth thoughts: But there's no basis for this equivalence. Considerate is just an adjective meaning "thoughtful towards other people". And checking ngrams does reveal that "of [the people you're being considerate of]" is much more prevalent than "to [the people you're being considerate of]".

So that's my answer, I like towards; of is used more than to; of can be used in any situation. But it's English so if someone understands you then you can use whichever you like and hopefully it pleases people.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage @Thomas. My first thought is that TL;DR meant Too Long; Don't Read. But on second thought maybe you mean Too Long; Didn't Read. Either way I think TL;DR and the First, Second, Third thought structure detracts from your answer. To write stronger answers please see the help center. – andy256 Jan 13 '15 at 11:40
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    @andy256 - TL;DR is perfectly fine. It means: read this if the stuff below is too long for you. Also called an Executive Summary – mplungjan Jan 13 '15 at 13:05
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Either. Equally.

Some people prefer to speak of being "considerate to" people and "considerate of" their feelings, need for quiet etc.

People who like their vocabulary nicely segregated would into separate rôles would likely favour this clean separation, and argue therefore it was "the correct way", but language isn't always so neat.

Some people prefer to speak just of being "considerate of" both people and their feelings etc.

People who like their language use to be etymologically defensible would likely favour this clean separation, as when we consider the earliest senses of considerate (well-considered, careful, deliberate) then by being considerate in this sense "of others" we narrow down that original sense to arrive at the sense it is most commonly used in today. They might argue therefore it was "the correct way", but language isn't always so consistent etymologically. (If it were, words would never change, and there wouldn't be any etymology).

It's amusing that both have a vaguely reasonable claim to being "the only one that makes sense" to two different ways of arguing about what is correct.

Most people of course just use what they heard growing up. I would have been sure that "considerate to others" was the more common, but ngrams suggests that in fact "of others" is.

But in any case, both are very definitely correct, and the person who altered the sign should have considered examining usage first.

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