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Point in, point of, point to. (Point in the sense of "purpose".) What are the differences among these — in meaning? in usage (each is used in certain constructions or with certain collocates, say)? in dialect? in register? etc.

Some examples (though I'm asking more generally than just about these examples):

(1a) There's no point in going.
(1b) There's no point of going.
(1c) There's no point to going.

(2a) Is there a point in his action?
(2b) Is there a point of his action?
(2c) Is there a point to his action?

(3a) What's the point in that sculpture's being there?
(3b) What's the point of that sculpture's being there?
(3c) What's the point to that sculpture's being there?

  • Answer: it all depends. In your examples, 1b is awkward if not ungrammatical; 2b likewise, and 2c conveys the meaning best while 2a is ambiguous (could refer to point in time); any of the third group could be used, though I would favor 3b. – Robusto Mar 25 '12 at 16:09
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    It's also sometimes used with no preposition at all; I think your (1a-c) examples wouldn't require a preposition if your gerund phrase were a bit longer, e.g. "There's no point arguing about it." – ruakh Mar 25 '12 at 22:50
  • @ruakh: Far more people keep the preposition with "There's no point in arguing" than drop it. Checking Google Books, it's still 2:1 in favour of keeping it with "There's no point in arguing about it". But we know it's "wrong", which is why we don't do this so often in shorter constructions, where it's more noticeable. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 '12 at 0:49
  • @FumbleFingers: To be clear: I wasn't saying that "There's no point arguing about it" is better or more common than "There's no point in arguing about it." I was merely pointing out that the former is in use. (But I don't know about your "'wrong'"-ness explanation for why it's more common with longer phrases. I can think of other explanations that seem more plausible to me; and I have no idea how to test any of them.) – ruakh Mar 26 '12 at 0:54
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    It is quite common for prepositions to get dropped as language evolves. It depends where you live is more common than It depends on where you live. I suspect that There's no point arguing will soon become more common, too. There's no point in arguing about it. – user57664 Nov 19 '13 at 2:25
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There's no "rule" here - just established idiomatic norms.

1a - There's no point in going. (most common)
1b - There's no point of going. (non-standard)
1c - There's no point to going. (sometimes acceptable)

2a - Is there a point in his action? (often acceptable)
2b - Is there a point of his action? (non-standard)
2c - Is there a point to his action? (most common)

3a - What's the point in that sculpture's being there? (often acceptable)
3b - What's the point of that sculpture's being there? (most common)
3c - What's the point to that sculpture's being there? (sometimes acceptable)

(Most speakers would drop the apostrophe+s on the last three.)

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    Nice sets! I agree with FumbleFingers' judgements. What I notice is the different predicates of the prepositions in each of your groups. in + gerund (N over V) to + noun (just N) of + gerundive phrase? (NP over VP-with-subject: "that sculpture is there") This might explain part of the differences. – Neil Salmond Mar 25 '12 at 22:16
  • @FumbleFingers It would be nteresting to compare with what happens when substituting reason for point. – schremmer Jan 14 '18 at 17:46
  • @schremmer: If you could come up with 3 prepositions capable of being used after reason, and 3 sets of example usages featuring each different preposition (wherein every preposition appears once only, as the most common form within the "triplet"), I would surely upvote it with bells on! I suspect that may not be possible, though. Or if you think that one's too easy, try figuring out the other 8 examples to go with There is method in my madness! – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '18 at 18:15

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