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Well, the title says it all:

Do you say "the lyrics of the song" or "the lyrics to the song"?

Is any of these wrong?

And why?

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, Dan Bron, Phil Sweet, Nigel J, Laurel Jan 15 '18 at 3:17

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"of" is more common, but both are correct..."to" is used to indicate possession, just as "of" does.

  • Thanks! Could you show an example of "to" indicating possession (other than "Lyrics to") instead of purpose? I was thinking of "fun time" = "time of fun" but not "time to fun" – Sebastián Grignoli Jun 15 '12 at 15:38
  • From thefreedictionary.com/to : "I was looking for the top to the jar." – JeffSahol Jun 15 '12 at 16:00
  • 1
    @Sebastián: Ah! You are asking Jeff to provide an answer to your question. Yet someone else may help give you the keys to the door of enlightenment. :^) – J.R. Jun 15 '12 at 16:01
  • Thanks J.R.! So, I could say that it was you who handed me the keys of the door to enlightenment this time in your answer of my question, right? – Sebastián Grignoli Jun 15 '12 at 17:25
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    Many two-letter prepositions, such as of, to, and in, have more than a dozen definitions. Some of these overlap; others don't. "Send a letter to Jeff, in time for his birthday, of course. No interchangability there. But, after the package arrives, Jeff can wonder aloud: "What are the contents of the box?" or, "What are the contents in the box?" This can be tricky, and I doubt it will ever be explained in one simple answer, which is why we keep seeing similar questions here. That said, you used those words in your comment back to me just fine. – J.R. Jun 16 '12 at 1:11

Neither is incorrect; however, both "to the song" and "of the song" get in the way of communication.

I'd prefer to read or hear "the lyrics", or maybe "the song lyrics". Shorter, clearer, and less typing!

  • How would you add the name of the song to this form of the sentence? – Sebastián Grignoli Jun 16 '12 at 2:49
  • It depends on the context. If your communication is already about a particular song, you do not need to refer to the name again. If you want to refer to a specific lyric in a specific song, you don't need to use the word "lyric" at all. – BellevueBob Jun 16 '12 at 13:26
  • Discarding duplicate. – BellevueBob Jun 16 '12 at 13:26
  • Sorry, I hit the wrong key and now it will not let me edit the comment. Here is what I intended to say: Just say "the name-of-song lyrics". In fact, if it is a well-known song or one you have previously introduced, the word "lyrics" should not be necessary; it would be implied by the context of your converstation or writing. – BellevueBob Jun 16 '12 at 13:42

This is an odd one. Words and lyrics are synonyms (I can't spot a difference between Who wrote the words? and Who wrote the lyrics?, or Learn the words and Learn the lyrics—except that lyrics founds fancier, as you'd expect from a Greek borrowing versus a native Germanic root). Nonetheless, they do not go with the same prepositions.

With words, I prefer to over for:

The words to this song are great
? The words for this song are great

But with lyrics, I prefer for over to:

? The lyrics to this song are great
The lyrics for this song are great

My guess is, there's nothing principled here, just an ad hoc quirk in how English has developed.

A couple of other observations. Both words and lyrics seem to go with of (and possibly in):

The words of this song are great
The lyrics of this song are great

The (dis)preference of to and for can be overridden by the verb:

Who put these lyrics/words to this song?
Who wrote these lyrics/words for this song?

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