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This was asked in an English test and the teacher said that the correct answer was "errors of judgement" but online I can see that both of them are used [google] [merriam webster]. Personally I feel that "errors in judgement" is more grammatically correct.

Context,

The 'mirages', which are just tricks played by the eyes in certain conditions, have led to explorers in the Antarctic making many errors _____ judgement

I have a hunch that this is a British vs American English problem, Am I correct?

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2 Answers 2

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I contacted several academics at the Faculty of English Cambridge University (The question was from a Cambridge Advanced English, Use of English test). Several replied, with all of them acknowledging that both answers are correct. With some of them preferring one over the other for idiomatic reasons.

Out of the academics who replied, the email from Prof Drew Milne [wiki] was by far the most verbose:

Both are grammatically correct, but they mean slightly different things.

Errors of judgment are errors associated with the faculty of judgement: you could say errors of judgment are mistaken judgments or mistakes. Usually an error 'of' judgment indicates a deliberately wrong, often unethical or criminal judgment.

Errors in judgment are errors made in the act of judgment, more like miscalculations commited in the process of judgment: errors in judgement are more like relying on a faulty apparatus (not wearing reading glasses) rather than making bad judgments deliberately. Mistakes would result from the errors made in judging something, but it is a different quality of mistake, and in criminal contexts, an error in judgment would usually suggest a more accidental mistake rather a deliberate or intentional act, more a case of neglicence than criminal intent.

Put differently, the 'of' acts a genitive, whereas the 'in' indicates as a temporal preposition.

best wishes,

DM

After inquiring further with the specific context and asking whether "errors in judgment" is the preferred answer, He replied,

Yes perhaps, but either would do, neither is more "correct" than the other, not least because the differentiation is a rather legalistic clarification and the context offered suggests both errors of judgment and errors in judgment, and I think errors of judgment would be more idiomatic, perhaps even the more common form. English doesn't really allow too fine a line of correctness to be established. if you offer a native speaker the alternatives, I think they would differentiate as I suggested, but I don't think the context you provide forces either to be the right one.

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  • Thank you, Deera. This is a specimen answer to many 'Which one is correct / grammatical?' questions that appear on ELU. As @John Lawler puts it, trying to rank 'sentence pairs with minimal differences' for acceptability. Oct 13, 2022 at 18:25
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Both are grammatically correct. Consider these two sentences

The current assistant judge in this court made several errors in judgement in his previous assignment.

The people of this town are suffering hardships because of the district court's errors of judgement in the A vs B case.

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    Which is the case with many sentence pairs with minimal differences. That's why exam questions like this should make you distrust the test and the schools that use it. There is a lot of nonsense about English grammar that is taught in schools worldwide. Oct 11, 2022 at 17:44

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