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English Grammar

Grammar

Writing

What is the difference between "By contrast, …" and "In contrast to…" (if any)?

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10 Answers

Claire Dobie

Claire Dobie , Grammatical proofreading, tutor, and publisher of articles on grammar

Im going out on a limb here.  I seldom use either of the above. I prefer "as opposed to" but now that I write it, it sounds is if Ive left little room for compromise.

I would say "by contrast" and "in contrast to" are  the same but the "difference" youre looking for may depend on how they are used in context.  Personally, I feel both are somewhat  formal for a friendly conversation. I can, however, see both used (probably over-used) in legal writing or corporate papers or documents.

I dont often hear "In contrast to what?" except in TV scripts. Most people would just say "Compared to what?"

Both refer to a comparison although the word contrast can be used either as a verb (to compare or to differ)  or as a noun (a significant or stunning difference).

AND, and, and (sic) it can be used as a verb with an object OR as a verb without an object.  Its enough to drive you nuts. These are probably the reasons I do not like to use either phrase. They both sound a little stuffy to me anyway.

I can demonstrate best by example.

"My friend is a perfect gentleman. And by contrast, you are a despicable, loathsome, and unattractive louse.

I am aware that this next example is an incomplete sentence:
 "Wow, what a contrast!"  Lets say that would be a statement made with reference to the regular Sports Illustrated magazine, contrasted with or in contrast to  the Swimsuit SI Issue.

****

Lets contrast Professor Good Cop and Professor Bad Cop.

Or let me put it another way: lets see how Prof. GC handles his class in contrast to Prof. BC.

Actually, let me rephrase that:  Prof. GC  has an IQ of 170 and hes very easy-going, and fair. By contrast, Prof BC was tested at 135 and hes always grumpy and rude. Ive heard  Prof BC  hates being contrasted with Prof GC. He is in total denial about the contrast between them.

SEE?  THEY ALL WORK.

****

"Your assignment," Professor Good Cop said calmly, "will be to contrast tax laws in 1870 with todays tax code, using as many examples as you feel necessary to demonstrate the contrasts between the two very different sets of laws."

"I want to see contrast in this assignment" Professor Bad Cop yelled at his class. "Ive had it with the obvious internet statistics you people have been giving me over the last two weeks. Contrast the two governments, using your own thoughts! And give me coherent examples!"

****

The bottom line is there is no real difference. It just needs to sound right in the conversation or written document, as opposed to sounding wrong.

I defer to my literature compadre, Frank D.

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Frank Dauenhauer

Frank Dauenhauer , former Technical writer and editor at Eastman Kodak Products and Services (1960-1991)

The original question is:

What is the difference between "By contrast, …" and "In contrast to…" (if any)?

Answer:

In practice, none. Personally, I never use "by contrast." It sounds clunky. I prefer "in contrast." Here is a more learned view of the difference:

In or by contrast | Language Usage Weblog

https://languagetips.wordpress.c…

“In contrast” and “by contrast” mean the same thing: they are used to compare in order to show differences. The difference between them lies in the way the words are used. “In contrast” is usually followed by “to” or “with”  and requires a noun to follow it. “By contrast” is usually followed or preceded by the subject of the sentence.

Examples:

  • In contrast to the diligent bee, the butterfly flies hither and yon with no apparent purpose.
  • In contrast with the chorus of birdsongs in my backyard, my front yard is serenaded by the sound of rumbling buses flying down the street.
  • By contrast, the Picasso is more vibrant and full of life.
  • The cats will often sleep the day away. The dogs, by contrast, never settle down.

Anne Som

Anne Som , English Student

Originally Answered: Are there any differences between "in contrast" and "by contrast"?
“In contrast” and “by contrast” mean the same thing: the act of comparing in order to show differences.
The difference lies in the way the words are used.

  • “In contrast” is usually followed by “to” or “with” and requires a noun to follow it.
  • “By contrast” is usually followed or preceded by the subject of the sentence.

EXAMPLES:

In contrast to the diligent bee, the butterfly flies hither and yon with no apparent purpose.
In contrast with the chorus of birdsongs in my backyard, my front yard is serenaded by the sound of rumbling buses flying down the street.
By contrast, the Picasso is more vibrant and full of life.
The cats will often sleep the day away. The dogs, by contrast, never settle down.

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Jeff Modzelewski

Jeff Modzelewski , BA, MA, MBA, CPA – and 60+ years living on Planet Earth

The meaning is the same, although the mechanics are ever so slightly different.

“In contrast to” requires a following reference to a specific item – something explicitly named – immediately after the “to,” usually then followed by an explanation on the nature of the contrast.

“By contrast” (also often phrased “By way of contrast”) makes the same opposition, but instead of requiring an explicit following reference, it presupposes a preceding reference.

Yesterday it rained all day long. By contrast, today’s forecast is for sunny skies.

In contrast to yesterday’s all-day rain, today’s forecast is for sunny skies.

Celia Jennings Bolton

Celia Jennings Bolton , works at Retirement

Good gracious, I just wrote a tome on "in contrast" and never even thought about "by", so I will leave that part to you other posters who have put so much thought into it.

This almost seems like one of those "sounds better" cases, though, which I generally dismiss as being written by people who dont know any of the "whys," and now Ive become one of them. "In contrast," to my ear, "sounds" better than "by contrast" and with "by" I would be more likely to use "comparison". Which also  "sounds" fine with "in."

This is one if the biggest language conundra  Ive run into lately.

I had a teacher whose essay questions often began "Compare and contrast….", which sounds as though she thought "compare" discussed only similarities and "contrast" discussed the differences. The reality, though, is that "compare" encompasses both similarities and differences.

Now, the idiomatic "by the same token" and "on the other hand" are perfectly clear – the former indicates similarities and the latter differences. I may have to resort to those to avoid my own confusion. Thank goodness Im not trying to learn English as a second language. People who do have my greatest admiration.

Lisbeth Sebastian

Lisbeth Sebastian , Developer Romantic Traveller Reader

Originally Answered: Are there any differences between "in contrast" and "by contrast"?
Both have the same meaning. However, in contrast normally requires a "to" or "with" and needs a noun to follow it. By contrast normally has a subject before or after it.

I am taking an example sentence already written in Quora.

His relationship with his father is poor. By contrast, his relationship with his mother is great.

His relationship with his father is poor in contrast to his relationship with his mother, which is great.