Cambridge provides this example of "approximate" as a verb:

to come near in ​quality, ​amount, ​value, or ​character:

The ​painting only approximated the ​mountain ​landscape.

Similarly, Oxford provides this example:

approximate to something:

His story approximates to the facts that we already know.

My question:

Adding my own subjects (for instance "the artist" and "the author"), can I use "the story" and "the painting" as objects, while keeping the meaning exactly as is in both sentences? Here are the sentences as I want them to sound like:


The ​artist only approximated the painting to the ​mountain ​landscape.


The author manages to approximate his story to the facts we already know.

My suspicion is that I have changed the meaning, but I am not sure. Thank you.


1 Answer 1


The first issue is to decide whether approximates requires "to", and my best-usage detector suggests that the "to" is not very good.

So a sentence like "The author approximates the story as it is well-known in history books." sounds rather better than "The author approximates [via their writing, etc] to the story as it is well-known in history books."

I suspect "... approximates [object] to [object]" is not a common usage, irrespective of any slight meaning change.

  • Whether or not you think the "approximates to" sounds good, it appears to be a valid usage with a different meaning that I had never heard of either. It's in the dictionary the OP cited and the first dictionary I checked also has a line about it (but no example sentence). Commented Nov 28, 2015 at 3:43

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