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Is there a difference between "the path of something" and "the path to something"? I'm confused.

Here are two examples:

  1. The paths of spiritual life growth (1): Be Quiet Before God and Pray With a Single-minded and Sincere Heart

  2. The paths to spiritual life growth (1): Be Quiet Before God and Pray With a Single-minded and Sincere Heart

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    Of can be a possessive (the path of the enlightened), while to can be a destination (the path to the pot of gold). They clearly mean different things in some contexts; in other contexts, it may not matter which is used. In the specific sentence in the question, I can't see that it really makes a difference. – Jason Bassford Sep 10 at 9:43
  • In your opinions, are the prepositions used correctly in the two examples above? – Daisy99 Sep 10 at 9:58
  • Even if they are interpreted as giving different meanings to the sentence, they are both grammatical. But if by correct you mean more than just grammatical, I can't answer that without knowing exactly what the sentence is trying to express. As I said, it doesn't appear in this sentence as if it matters which is used. But it's possible it might; the entire passage within which the sentence appears would need to be considered. – Jason Bassford Sep 10 at 10:06
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"Path to" refers to someone or something on a journey. for example, The militant crew will follow the path to the riverside road. However, Path of refers to the path someone has already made. like the dull student is following the path of bright student to get success in the examinations.

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'Path to' indicates the way to get to something, the direction you would take to get to it. (eg the route you take to get to the top of a mountain)

Path to the iceberg

This would explain the route (or the steps) you take to get to the iceberg

This is sometimes also metaphorical (path to enlightenment/salvation)

The path to salvation requires you to do (x) before you can start upon it


"Path of" indicates where a particular something itself is going to or has been (like the trajectory of a planet)

Path of the iceberg

This tells you where the iceberg is going (or has been)

This could also be metaphorical, but would mean the direction you take to stay on the path of enlightenment/salvation

The path of enlightenment is fraught with temptation


As Jason says in comments - for metaphorical use, it might not matter which one is used.

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The object of path to is the destination. The object of path of is the thing taking or defining the path. For example in the “the path to the store” store is the destination. In “the path of the plane”, plane is what’s following the path. “path (or way) of” can also be used to name a path because it names a defining characteristic of the path.

In “path to spiritual life growth”, spiritual life growth is the goal. If one is successful they will attain spiritual life growth. If that is the intent then use that one. In “path of spiritual life growth”, spiritual life growth is what is a defining characteristic of the path. It is what is experienced while on the path. I.e., take this path and you will experience spiritual life growth.

Use whichever one meets your intent.

  • The two examples above are titles of a series of posts on a Facebook. These posts tell us three paths to help us grow in our spiritual life. The example is one of them. – Daisy99 Sep 11 at 8:17

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