I encountered the following usage on a barrister's blog: '...not sure of both of the following limbs to the prosecution case,'.

I would've written 'the following limbs of the...'.

I searched Just The Word and checked for google hits of the exact phrase and it seems the first is uncommon.

Is this a correct usage?

  • 3
    I don't think this metaphoric use of "limb" is remotely idiomatic, so the choice of preposition is somewhat irrelevant. But if you insist on using it, probably of would work better. – FumbleFingers Oct 15 '16 at 16:13
  • Could you add some more context to your question as, for the moment, it is hard to get the exact meaning and wider implications? – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 15 '16 at 16:17
  • This is a blog using legal terminology. Don't try to parse it if you don't need to. – Hot Licks Oct 15 '16 at 17:44
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers But we do talk about arms of government, as well as possibly an arm to government A quango is an arm to government (but perhaps not an arm of government). Legs are similarly employed. So I think it is a fair question, but my answer would be that either are possible, but of more common and conveying a slightly different meaning . – WS2 Oct 15 '16 at 17:53
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    Sigh! If one substitutes "branches" for "limbs" in the original quote (ie, view the "limbs" as tree limbs), the gist of it is easy to get. When you try to understand it as "arms" and "legs" you just confuse yourself. – Hot Licks Oct 15 '16 at 20:21

The following suggests that the limbs may be of a (legal) test and applied to a case (or simply to a case for short). I suspect that the limbs constitute or are comparable to a singular check-list or decision-tree (the test) that was developed for use in many different cases. So, they would be the test's limbs, not the case's limbs.

In contrast, the Federal Court in other cases has identified Perera as having two cumulative limbs and applied both limbs to the case at hand. For example, Carr J in Waiz v MIMA identified the two limbs and stated that the correct approach was whether the applicant could be said to have been effectively prevented from giving his evidence in relation to a matter of significance for his claim or the Tribunal decision. Mansfield J in Arif v MIMA and Goldberg J in Mahzar v MIMA also dealt with both limbs of the test formulated in Perera.


Legal tests are various kinds of commonly applied methods of evaluation used to resolve matters of jurisprudence. In the context of a trial, a hearing, discovery, or other kinds of legal proceedings, the resolution of certain questions of fact or law may hinge on the application of one or more legal tests.

Legal tests are often formulated from the logical analysis of a judicial decision or a court order where it appears that a finder of fact or the court made a particular decision after contemplating a well-defined set of circumstances. It is assumed that evaluating any given set of circumstances under a legal test will lead to an unambiguous and repeatable result.


  • Google finds no instances of "limbs to the prosecution case" (or "arms to the prosecution case") on the Internet or Google Books, but "legs to the prosecution case" occurs once in each (in different contexts). We do actually talk about the legs in a decision tree, but I never heard of limbs being used like that. – FumbleFingers Oct 15 '16 at 16:49
  • @FumbleFingers Although there aren't many hits, a few can be uncovered by Google. The decision tree is my own interpretation (as I'm more familiar with decision theory than with law stuff). It seems logical, but perhaps the use in law predates actual decision trees. I added legal test to the answer. – We oath to creation Oct 15 '16 at 16:52
  • I don't think it's really meaningful to refer to "the use in law" here, since to all intents and purposes there is no such use. Your example only peripherally involves a [prosecution] case insofar as the relevant test is part of that case. Bottom line: it's effectively a non-existent usage scenario, so the precise choice of preposition is really something of a moot point which can hardly be ruled on by finding the occasional written instance. – FumbleFingers Oct 15 '16 at 17:06
  • @FumbleFingers I meant the use of decision trees, not the use of limbs. But anyway I did find some further hits from Australia and England/Wales and they use limbs to (the case) a bit like one would use pathways to (building a case). A bit of directionality there. The roads to Rome as opposed to the roads of Rome, which are not the same ones. – We oath to creation Oct 15 '16 at 17:11
  • Yeah, I thought along those lines myself - it seems to me we'd normally understand approaches to the case as referring to ways in which the case can be countered, argued against, whereas elements or threads to the case would be taken to mean the actual lines of argument that constitute the case. – FumbleFingers Oct 15 '16 at 17:21

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