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My question may sound repetitive; I've been sifting through whole Internet and I haven't found a clear and comprehensive description about how to utilise idioms like:

  • Regarding
  • With regard to
  • In regard to
  • As regards
  • In respect to
  • As to
  • As for
  • Pertaining to
  • Concerning

and the differences in their usage.

I am even mostly correct on using them, but sometimes they still seem to be confusing! I need a once-for-all clarification.

He is a great man in terms of morality.

(Sounds natural to me) It means he is great in morality as an aspect, right? In terms of here means to look at someone through their morality aspect, could it be replaced with "as regards"?

"With respect to" many requests we have received "concerning" exams...

Could "with respect to" be replaced with "as regards to" since we are observing numerous requests received?

These are still vague to me in many situations.

Thanks!

  • They can all be used as discourse-organising focusing devices outside the matrix sentence, giving prominence to the person/topic under consideration. As they contain information important to the matrix sentence, they're not purely pragmatic. 'As regards John -- I think it's best not to tell him.' (Gives 'John' prominence) vs 'I think it best not to tell John.' Their usage within a matrix sentence is more idiosyncratic. Probably the best way to check on collocates is by searches on the internet. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 12 '15 at 14:48
  • Thanks for the reply .. I guess that I should figure out what their exact differences are, and then I would answer this myself so that others can make use of it .. – bhd Nov 12 '15 at 17:11
  • The corresponding article at Wordreference doesn't seem to greatly differentiate usages. I'd use a few templates, such as 'These are the facts ...... the matter/situation/holidays...' // 'Have you questioned him ...... the problem...' // 'taken precautions/steps ......' // 'news/information/facts ......' // 'written a/n letter/article/few notes ......'. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 12 '15 at 17:35
  • "In regards to" sounds better than "as regarding" or "as regards to." However, most of your examples are interchangeable. If you are a native speaker (or even if you aren't) you can try saying out loud to see how well it flows. Also, these are good examples in the English language that allow you to show some variability in your sentence structure. – Stu W Nov 12 '15 at 19:01
  • @StuW thanks for the reply, but there is debate on using in regards to and in regard to, most people say in regard to sounds more natural than regards. – bhd Nov 12 '15 at 19:20
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I'm not 100% sure these rise to the level of idioms. An idiom is a common fixed expression that must be used with the typical words or it sounds wrong. This limits your word choice. As you've already demonstrated there are many acceptable words that would carry the same meaning and not seem out of place. The only way these sound wrong is if you make a grammatical mistake.

Some definitions of idiom make a big deal about literal vs figurative meanings as well, which would also cast doubt here, but I've always thought that primarily it was their fixed nature that set them apart.

So if they aren't idioms then aren't they just synonyms with varying prepositions? If they mean the same thing, and you follow the rules of grammar, then you can use whichever one you feel like using.

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The phrases using regard tend to refer to an abstract or general object that is the topic or area discussed by the containing sentence or paragraph. Those using respect point to an object that is something more specific than the general context.

In regard to music, he is quite talented. In respect to the oboe, however, he needs more practice.

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