Which one is correct, "overlaps" or "overlaps with"?

  1. Your vacation period overlaps John's.
  2. Your vacation period overlaps with John's.
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    Hello, dmz73. What do dictionaries say? Do they give helpful example sentences? You may still have a valid question, but ELU expects reasonable research to be shown. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 17 '17 at 9:46
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    I agree with foxfirebrand's view at wordreference.com: << The preposition 'with' is used [after 'overlap/s'] with concepts more than with concrete objects.' >>. I'd use 'Your vacation period overlaps with John's.' but never 'The roof overlaps with the gable'. I'll transfer this, with examples, to an 'answer' if you add dictionary references. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 17 '17 at 9:52
  • @EdwinAshworth Whilst I agree that people do say "overlaps with", - e.g. with such as holidays - I am not clear how that came to be. The OED does not provide a separate sense category for conceptual overlaps, though some examples are of such. But the number that include with are very limited. The preposition, to my mind, would seem quite unnecessary. – WS2 Aug 17 '17 at 10:12
  • @WS2 I'd hoped OP would do their own research. 'The OED' really isn't a good enough label here; when was your copy last updated? Collins certainly includes the 'overlaps with' variant but only for 'acts and activities'. There are almost 4 million Google hits for "overlaps with". It's idiomatic. Do you never use 'fought against' / 'juggle with' or 'rule over'? – Edwin Ashworth Aug 17 '17 at 10:54
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    Overlapped with is idiomatic, but is less than a century old. See Ngram. It now seems to be more common than transitive overlapped. I don't think the dictionaries have caught up with usage yet. – Peter Shor Aug 17 '17 at 12:18

You use "overlaps with" if the overlapping is symmetrical -- ie, one side is not somehow eclipsing the other but rather both sides are equal participants in the coincidence. Eg, Fred's schedule overlaps with John's.

You use plain "overlaps" if there is a reasonably clear distinction between the "overlapper" and the "overlappee". Eg, the carpet overlaps the vinyl floor.


If you want to say about partly coincidence in time, you should use with: Your vacation period overlaps with John's. See other examples from English Oxford living dictionaries:

  • The house of four girls also followed this pattern and two of their three months overlapped with two of the birthday months of my house.
  • The game's 7.30 am kick off, with the final whistle at 9.15 am, meant the game overlapped with the start of the school day.
  • That period overlaps with the breeding period for puffins at both colonies (mid-April through late August).
  • Peter, am I remembering correctly that your time as a participant at the Jan van Eyck Akademie overlapped with Jan van Toorn's final year there?

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