This sentence is from one of my exam.

Find A and B of C and D, respectively.

Should I find {A, B of C and A, B of D} or {A of C and B of D}?

I think the answer is the second one because 'respectively' means there are two parallel lists and items are matched one-to-one. But my friends said the answer is the first one.

  • 2
    You are right and your friends are wrong. The word “respectively” was placed there specifically to disambiguate precisely that point. That’s its whole function. If your friends disagree, feel free to point them to a dictionary.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 21, 2020 at 12:25
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Is this correct use of 'respectively'? Apr 21, 2020 at 14:42
  • My friends say 'respectively' means you should write down your answers "A, B of C" and "A, B of D" in order. It's hard to explain to them :(
    – Y LI
    Apr 21, 2020 at 14:56
  • For your friends, we write "Find A and B each for both C and D." Apr 21, 2020 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


I agree with @Dan Bron. You are correct. Here are a few references online.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respectively https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/respectively https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/respectively

You defined the rationale for using the word "respectively" already very well yourself.

  • If the sentence is like this: Find the weight and height of Alice and Tom, respectively. Does it mean "Find Alice's weight and Tom's height"? Although it seems like "Find Alice's weight and height, and Tom's weight and height."
    – Y LI
    Apr 21, 2020 at 14:44

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