3

I just wrote

There are two strange aspects of this situation.

Then I decided that

There are two strange aspects to this situation.

sounded better, but I don't know why. There are certainly many situations where "aspects of" sounds more natural than "aspects to". For example, it sounds more natural to me to say

I haven't thought through all the subtle aspects of this question.

than

I haven't thought through all the subtle aspects to this question.

But I can't quite put my finger on a precise rule for when to use which one. Is there one?

  • The preposition to works in the first instance, not the second. Cf. "There are two sides to the coin." HTH. – Kris Sep 4 '18 at 8:17
  • This question would have earned up votes if backed by research. – Kris Sep 4 '18 at 8:19
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When using aspect in a sentence, you can't use 'to' for showing possession, instead use 'of'.

However, you can place preposition to when there's no talk of any possession, as in:

  • Moreover, the time horizon is another important aspect to take into consideration. [it doesn't show any possession here].

Your first example where you used 'aspects of' is absolutely grammatical other than your second example:

  • There are two strange aspects of this situation. [correct]

And your second example might have been like this:

  • There are two strange aspects to consider. [hence, using 'to' for showing possession is entirely ungrammatical]

Note that your 3rd and 4th examples are vice versa here. Same rules can be applied as I told about your 1st and 2nd example.

Also note that we use to in using other words, like belong and junior, etc. to show possession, property or relationship:

  • ... belong to me.

  • He is junior to me.

  • What is he to you?

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The reason the first sentence sounds wrong is that it is wrong. Consider the following sentences:

There are four sides of a square. [incorrect]

A square has four sides. [correct]

As this example shows, it is sometimes possible to reword a sentence that starts with "There is ..." or "There are ..." to make it clearer and stronger. In your case,

This situation has two strange aspects. [correct]

is better stylistically than

There are two strange aspects to this situation. [correct]

Note also:

There are two versions of the speech. [correct]

There are two copies of the photograph. [correct]

A strange aspect of this situation is that we don't know who sent the letter. [correct]

One side of the building has been painted blue. [correct]

  • You seem to be saying that “of … a” is incorrect, while “of … the” and “of … this” are correct.   Why? – Scott Mar 1 at 1:28
  • No, I'm not saying that. The problem is not with "of ... a" but with the construction "There are two x of y" when x belongs to or is contained in y. – hguler Mar 1 at 1:34
  • 1
    You’re still making an unsubstantiated assertion.  Why is your answer correct? – Scott Mar 1 at 1:37
  • Do you understand that "There are four sides of a square" is incorrect? – hguler Mar 1 at 2:31
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    My gut tells me that it is, at best, awkward. But my gut isn’t always correct. And tparker (the OP) probably doesn’t care any more about your gut than I do. The question asks whether there is a precise rule for when to use which word, and you have not provided one. Explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. – Scott Mar 1 at 3:51

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