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What is the difference between the right to freedom of speech and the right of freedom of speech?

Secondly, since in India this right is a provision mentioned in the Constitution, while writing it should one write it using the uppercase, like Right to/of Freedom of Speech?

  • Personally I would not use upper case unless it was part of a title. I would use to and of in very slightly different circumstances. If I was using 'freedom of speech' as a composite term, I think I would use of. One might use to if it was not intended as a composite e.g. they have the right to the freedom of assembly, speech, strike action etc. But it is only a finely nuanced distinction and I don't think it really matters very much which you use. – WS2 Feb 20 '15 at 13:41
  • "in India this right is a provision mentioned in the Constitution:" Check it out here: "2. Right to freedom: Which includes speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality), right to life and liberty, " Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_rights_in_India – Kris Feb 20 '15 at 14:29
  • As for the difference in meaning, please visit English Language Learners Good Luck. – Kris Feb 20 '15 at 14:30
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To my American ear, "the right to freedom of speech" and "the right of freedom of speech" are essentially the same thing, although the latter sounds a little awkward because of the repetition of the word "of".

As to the second question, unless the right to freedom of speech is the formal name of a section of your constitution (such as the Bill of Rights in the US), I would not capitalize it.

  • There's enough difference in meaning between the versions with the prepositions to and of -- they're certainly not the same in general English. – Kris Feb 20 '15 at 14:31
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    When composing my answer above, I mulled over whether there is a significant difference between the two, and I could not enunciate it. @Kris, you didn't specify what that difference is. Perhaps you cannot either. But if you can, I'm willing to consider whether this difference is a significant one. I'm still holding (at least for now) to the notion that it is mainly a stylistic choice, and that the former just sounds better and sounds more natural to my ear. – Steven Littman Feb 20 '15 at 14:38
  • There's significant, not notional or stylistic, difference in meaning. However, I did not go into the details because the question is in the context of the Indian Constitution. Plus, English Language Learners may be better place for that. – Kris Feb 20 '15 at 14:41
  • @Kris: if you're not able to articulate the difference between them clearly, then this difference cannot be very significant. – Peter Shor Feb 20 '15 at 18:16
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"The right of freedom of speech" suggests an established right among a list of established rights. Which right are we talking about here? Oh, the right of freedom of speech.

The to in "the right to freedom of speech" suggests some kind of movement towards that right. It may be that the right is not yet fully recognized us such. Or maybe the status of the right is in no doubt, but the focus is on people who might conceivably be denied that right, or who are aspiring to that right.

  • The "to" does not indicate direction any more than "the key to the map" does. Paul below seems to be moving a little closer to the small distinction between "to" and "of". – Steven Littman Feb 20 '15 at 19:10
  • You're right. It's not so much direction, it's more that the preposition "to" suggests some sort of mediation between the operator and the operated (we say the key "to" the door, because the key is not an integral part of the door, but it is what allows someone to open the door). You could say that the right is what mediates between people and the freedom of speech they aspire to. If we say the right "to" freedom of speech, we always have in mind a potential beneficiary of that right. – Lachlan Dominic Feb 22 '15 at 13:56
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I would say:

  • "The right to freedom of speech" means you are entitled to this right, but may not have it;

  • "The right of freedom of speech" means that it is a right you have and may excercise (it could be enshrined in the constitution).

...but I am a foreigner (from the Netherlands).

  • Paul, I think you're getting close to the difference, albeit very small. The construction with "to" frames the right as more or less an established right, though not necessarily in place everywhere. With "of," you might be talking about a right in an academic sense, much like "the theory of evolution" or "the concept of separation of church and state." – Steven Littman Feb 20 '15 at 19:15

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