I am writing a scientific article, in which I need to describe the main drivers of a certain phenomenon.

I would like to say that the driver X plays an important role at modifying Y. But my supervisor corrected me to: driver X plays an important role in modifying Y.

Which one is correct? None of us are native English speakers, which makes it a bit tricky.

1 Answer 1


“In” appears to be the more common preposition used after “play a role”:

play a part/play a role

If something or someone plays a part or plays a role in a situation, they are involved in it and have an effect on it.

They played a part in the life of their community.

The U.N. would play a major role in monitoring a ceasefire.

(Collins Dictionary)

Also Google Books shows that play a role in is the more common collocation.

  • 1
    It's a metaphor for actors in a play. Feb 26, 2021 at 23:55
  • Does it make a difference that there is a verb after the prepositions in/at? I see that it sounds good to say "X plays a role in Y". But somehow it sounds better to me to say "X plays a role at doing Y".
    – ouranos
    Feb 27, 2021 at 8:36
  • 2
    @ouranos - it is largely a question of usage. As Google Books and dictionaries show “to play a role in” (+ ing form or noun) is the more commonly used construction. Play a role “at” is not grammatically wrong, it is just much less common. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user 66974
    Feb 27, 2021 at 9:00
  • Thank you. Now, why did this question get a down vote?
    – ouranos
    Feb 28, 2021 at 14:34
  • @ouranos - probably because you a supposed to do your own research and post your results when asking a question. But as a new user just keep this in mind for future questions.
    – user 66974
    Feb 28, 2021 at 14:40

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