I have a feeling that maybe you use one preposition with people, and the other with situations. For example, you might relate with a student who's nervous about an exam, whereas you relate to test anxiety. Am I correct in assuming this? If not, what grammatical rules determine whether you use "to" or "with" following the verb "relate"?

  • 3
    Loosely, to ‘relate to’ is ‘to understand/sympathise with’ and can apply to people or animals, objects, situations of anything else. I suspect to ‘relate with’ is in most senses interchangeable with ‘meet with’, ie it’s recent, it comes from US English and because very loosely it means ‘interact with’ it generally applies only to people or animals. Jan 12, 2017 at 20:39
  • @RobbieGoodwin Interesting! So it sounds like 'relate to', with my intended meaning, came first, and it's even dubious as to whether I can use 'relate with' interchangeably. Your comment seems to imply not - that this is not the intended meaning for 'relate with'. But to my American ears, it sounds very natural to say that you relate with something when you can either sympathize or empathize.
    – ktm5124
    Jan 12, 2017 at 22:27
  • @RobbieGoodwin After re-reading my own post just now, I kind of see what you're getting at. The phrase 'relate with' does imply a sense of meeting, at least in some contexts. Perhaps this is even proper usage of the phrase. I wouldn't be surprised if people substitute 'with' when they mean 'to'.
    – ktm5124
    Jan 12, 2017 at 22:31
  • I don't happen to have personally heard 'relate with' rather than '… to' used for sympathize or empathize yet I see what you mean. Jan 13, 2017 at 19:35
  • 2
    Can you provide a lexical definition of the sense of 'relate' you intend? Cursory lexical research suggests that 'with' is not idiomatic with 'relate' (except, perhaps, in Nigerian English) in the sense of to "understand or have empathy for; to identify or feel a connection with" (OED).
    – JEL
    Nov 5, 2017 at 6:47

3 Answers 3


This question has waited about a year for an answer. Given it has at least two upvotes and it is asked frequently on the internet, I thought I would give it a try. I also wanted to learn more about this phrasal verb. The answer I found, however, is not straightforward.

Question: When do you use “relate to” versus “relate with”?

I- Short answer

1- “Relate to” should be used when the meaning of the verb is about connections. For example, “I relate to your pain” and “Those cases relate to each other.” If you want to follow standard English, avoid “I relate with your pain,” and so on.

2- “Related with” could be used when the meaning of the verb is about communication, and often in past tense and passive voice. Hypothetically, also when “relate” conveys repetition and delivery (but found no examples). Examples for communicating a story:

“How this happens is related with engaging exuberance,”


“Rarely have such harrowing narratives been related with such wry”


"Related by blood" and "related through a common ancestral language" are examples for another thread.

II- Complications/variations and trends

1- With the exception of Chambers Concise Dictionary (2004), which included “relate with” only in a parenthesis (see also here), all the dictionaries I consulted employed “related to” rather than “related with.” One, in fact, advised against adding “with” after the verb “relate.”

"Get It Right!: related. After the adjective related, use the preposition to (not 'with')."

Sites with reputations for quality writing, like the www.nytimes.com, belie the rule but in few occasions, which suggests these cases were slips. The other occasions in which “related” is followed by a “with” in the NYT indicate communication or giving, as two quotes above show (see here).

According to, Lingo.help, 88% of the times the verb "related" is followed by "to."

2- When “relate to” is followed by the preposition “with” and produces an appearance of redundancy or awkward logic, some writers drop the “to.” Example:

“There were difficult aspects to her life that the Home Bringers related with apparent joy.”

3- As the Ngram Viewer shows, there is a subtle but steady climb in English of the phrase “related with” (76 million) (a steeper turn downward for "related to"). Sometimes people choose "relate with" to stress intimacy. For example, they may “relate to their company” but do “relate with their children.”

NGram: "related to" vs "related with" Link to NGram chart

The trend may result from some of relate's synonyms that are followed by "with." For example, "be associated with," and "have something to do with something." An additional cause might be an increasing interaction with comparable foreign languages that assign slightly different meanings to “relate.”

III- Foreign languages

While “related with” is not yet “standard English,” in other languages the rules seem more nuanced because their meanings of the verb relate shift in other directions. This is more evident in the major Romance languages. To take an example from the Spanish: relacionar, translates better to English in words like “connect” and “mix.” This helps explain why “to relate” in Spanish conveys a stronger connotation of relationship with degrees of distance assigned by the context, and thus it is more commonly (but not exclusively) followed by “with” (con):

“yo me relaciono con todo” (I relate with everything).

In standard English: "I relate to everything."

IV- Personal note about trends and the future of language

Most experts agree that language is not static and that rules are meant to facilitate communication rather than the other way around. “Related with” is perfectly understandable to most English-based readers, and the evidence is not simply in its increasing use in personal pages in the internet, but also in peer-review publications (see here). Though I prefer to follow standard practices in non-native languages, I would stay unperturbed at examples of “with" replacing “to” and would see it as evidence of a change in progress.

V- Other threads similar to this one on this site

1- Is it ever correct to use “relate to with”? (still open without accepted answer)

2- 'Relates to' vs. 'Is Related to' (still open but with accepted answer)

3- word “related” usage (closed)


If you look up the word 'relate' in any dictionary, it also means 'interact'. Thus when the word 'relate' means 'interact' in your writing, the right preposition is 'with' and not 'to'.

For example:

When you travel to Congo, be wary of who you relate with, because there's an outbreak of Ebola there now.

Another example:

Our relationship was poor when we were young. But we relate warmly with each ther now, but still, only on matters related to our office assignments.


"Connect to" and "relate with" are concrete and objective.... "Connect with" and "relate to" are abstract and subjective

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