For example: "This has led to a reduction in/of the severity of poverty."

I tend to think "a reduction in" refers more to intensity and number, whereas "a reduction of" emphasizes the action.

As in:

1) "The President called for a reduction of troops in the region." (Emphasis on what he wants the Pentagon to do.)

2) "The President is working toward a reduction in HIV cases." (Emphasis on fewer cases.)

1 and 2 are very similar, but there is a subtle difference. At least, to me. I can't find the grammar rules regarding whether or not there's a difference in these prepositions in this context. Maybe they're interchangeable?

  • You could do some research yourself. Google and Google Ngram investigations of "reduction/s P the number of"; "reduction/s P the severity of" etc should be useful. Jan 7, 2016 at 12:05
  • @EdwinAshworth: I already did that, and got similar numbers. Same as with a site-specific search (i.e., nytimes.com). Unfortunately, Googling ain't what it used to be. First, there is a lot of bad English out there. Second, there are a lot of useless click-bait pages that deliver unrelated results. Anyway, both "in" and "of" are possible. I'm trying to find out if there's any real distinction between them, not see how common they are.
    – Matt
    Jan 7, 2016 at 12:22
  • 2
    Indeed, "reduction of troops" is an action whereas "reduction in HIV cases" is a result.
    – lauir
    Jan 7, 2016 at 20:24
  • Maybe that's the distinction: Action vs. Result. ... I like that.
    – Matt
    Jan 7, 2016 at 20:31
  • 2
    This Wordreference.com_forum article shows that there is a degree of interchangeability, but not total interchangeability of pronouns. I'd say that @human's suggestion is astute, but not the whole story. Jan 8, 2016 at 14:57


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