Do we fit data with, by, or as a linear function?

4 Answers 4


None of those: we fit data to a function. See the usage throughout Wolfram Alpha, for example.

  • I thought of that one as well; what stopped me from including this is that it seemed a bit illogical to me in the sense that fitting data to a function sounds like I'm actually altering the data to fit better. Aug 24, 2012 at 20:22
  • 3
    @LevLevitsky Ah, I see what you are saying; but native speakers would not interpret it that way, and the language is quite standardized. We say "the curve fits the data" and "we fit data to the curve". Aug 24, 2012 at 20:24
  • I see, thanks for [the?] clarification :) Aug 24, 2012 at 20:27

I would say you fit a function or model to the data, rather than the other way around. Or you find a model that fits the data.

  • Very nice answer! It is grammatically and contextually correct. And I actually smiled after reading the second sentence. Aug 25, 2012 at 9:58

It's kind of weird for me to say "fit data to a function". I don't think there is a big difference either way, but I prefer "fit a function to the data" and I think this latter way is the form I've always heard or read.

I think of it like how a tailor "fits" a dress or suite to a person's body, where the measurements are the data and the clothing piece is the function.

  • I also said that :)
    – user1928
    Aug 25, 2012 at 2:43
  • @JenniferDylan Can you post a cross-reference to this question on mathSE, thanks.
    – Kris
    Aug 25, 2012 at 8:56
  • @Kris it's linked here.
    – user1928
    Aug 25, 2012 at 14:22

Actually, you don't do anything to data, which is the point to note.

You could say 'the data obeys/ conforms to/ or even fits, a (linear) function.'

It's important to note the difference between the inherent nature of the data and actions performed on the data.

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