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In a question I recently posted as to the difference between "intrinsic" and "inherent", an incidental issue arose. Which is more appropriate:

Inherent in...

or

Inherent to...

Gardner's Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage states that inherent takes the proposition in, not to. Random House Dictionary uses the following example:

factors inherent in the situation.

Yet, Ngram viewer has similar statistics for both usages, and there seem to be different (trans-Atlantic?) intuitions.

3 Answers 3

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The adjectival OED sense 3 of inherent can exist without preposition (sense 3a)

1886 W. J. Tucker Life E. Europe 33 Our inherent indolence, our apathy in times of peace is proverbial.

Where it exists in construction form (sense 3b) it is nowadays almost always with in, formerly with to and unto.

b. Const. in; formerly to, unto.

1622 G. de Malynes Consuetudo 3 The said prerogati[u]es doe also appertaine to the Law-merchant as properly inherent vnto commerce.

1633 G. Herbert Faith in Temple ix, When creatures had no reall light Inherent in them.

1641 Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia sig. F2, That height of Spirit inherent to his house.

1791 J. Boswell Life Johnson anno 1752 I. 130 These sufferings were aggravated by the melancholy inherent in his constitution.

1808 E. S. Barrett Miss-led General 7 That sweetness of temper which is inherent to himself.

1878 H. Irving Stage 29 The love of acting is inherent in our nature.

Oxford English Dictionary.

Having noted all that, I feel certain that I have personally used it with to.

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    I don't believe I've ever said inherent in. It actually sounds slightly off to me; to certainly seems to be the right preposition.
    – Angelos
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 11:25
  • Inherent to...
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 13:32
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I prefer "inherent to" on the grounds that both the form and the meaning of the adjective "inherent" include the notion of interiority, so the preposition "in" feels redundant. I believe (perhaps naively) that in general the preference for "to" is a Britishism. For instance, the American "different than" bothers me. Although "different" is indeed a comparative adjective, its degree is the positive, not the comparative; "than" goes with the comparative degree. Also, if we look to the verb form, we say "it differs from," not "it differs than." So I prefer "different from." This leaves the British form ("different to") unexplained, but I live in New York, so whatever, mate.

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I agree that "inherent to" sounds better. However, "inherent in" seems to be much more common; it is even used in the official US Army NCO Creed.

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