4

I have the following sentence:

"Method A has drawbacks that limit its applicability in real-world environments"

Can I use 'in' here or do I have to use 'to'? I'd appreciate every comment.

3
  • 1
    Depends on context/tone.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 14, 2020 at 14:11
  • 2
    I agree: applicability in real-world environments and applicability to real-world environments have different meanings.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 14, 2020 at 14:13
  • Thanks for your answers Hot Licks and Greybeard. What I want to say is that the specific Method A which has been applied in simulations, has drawbacks (especially regarding runtimes) that might make it difficult/costly to apply it in reality.
    – PeterBe
    Apr 14, 2020 at 14:30

2 Answers 2

6

Apply and applicable take a complement (an essential part of their meaning) with "to".

If you say applicable to real-world environments, you are stating that the real-world environments are (among) the things that it applies to.

"In" does not introduce a complement of apply or applicable, so it must be an adjunct with its normal meaning. So applicable in real-world environments must be talking about the environment within which it applies, not the things that it applies to (which are understood).

Whether there is a substantive difference in meaning depends on factors outside the sentence.

11
  • Thanks for your answers Colin Fine. I do not fully understand your answer to be totally honest. What I want to say is that the specific Method A which has been applied in simulations, has drawbacks (especially regarding runtimes) that might make it difficult/costly to apply it in reality.
    – PeterBe
    Apr 14, 2020 at 17:20
  • What is the method being applied to? Is it being applied to the real-world environment, or is it being applied to something else in the real-world environment? I suspect the latter.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 14, 2020 at 18:07
  • Thanks Colin Fine for your answer. To be totally honest, I do not understand the difference between being applied to 'real-world environment, or is it being applied to something else in the real-world environmet'. The method can't be applied (according to my analysis) in/to real-world environment. Only in simulations of a residential area it can be applied.
    – PeterBe
    Apr 15, 2020 at 18:04
  • I have no idea about the real-world limitations of what this might mean. The question I am asking is whether it makes sense to talk about the method being applied to an environment, or whether the method is applied to something else (which happens to take place in an environment). Since I have no idea what the method is, or does, or applies to, I cannot answer this question, as you evidently can.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 15, 2020 at 21:45
  • 1
    @PeterBe: you don't have to do anything. Both will be understood in context, and have similar meanings. But judging from your answers above, the method does not apply to the environment in any way - it applies to something else - so in fits your meaning better.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 17, 2020 at 15:23
0

The comments give out that there is a difference, and I believe there is at least an essential one, which is this. When you use "in" the whole environment isn't targeted, but instead some element immersed in it is or an element of the environment is, whereas the use of "to" implies the understanding that the whole environment is meant (OALD, in 1, OALD, to 8).

If the method is applied to something in the environment and not to the environment itself, as this seems to be the case, then "in" should be used.

1
  • Just so. In this case, in = inside or within.
    – Greybeard
    Apr 14, 2020 at 15:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.