The phrases “differ to” and “differ from” can be a subject of confusion for many readers and writers. Reading this article should make understanding this concept easy. This easy preposition guide will clarify in just a few easy steps which option to use: “differ to” or “differ from”.
Is It “Differ To” or “Differ From”?
The phrase “differ from” is correct to use, but it is incorrect to use the phrase “differ to” in a sentence. Using “differ to” would simply not make sense. Always opt for “differ from” in a sentence. There is no idiom that uses “differ to”.
Is It Ever Correct To Use “Differ To”?
It is never correct to use the words “differ to”. When using the word “differ”, the sentence discusses the opposite of being similar to something. The opposite of being similar to something is to “differ from” something. Note that the words “to” and “from” are also opposites.
What Does “Differ From” Mean?
The phrase “differ from” in a sentence suggests that one thing is different from something else; things are therefore unlike one another. This is the opposite of similarity. If objects or people are similar to each other, they do not “differ from” one another.
An example of two things that differ are a snake and a rabbit; they are unlike one another.
An example of two things that are similar are stairs and steps.
The phrase “differ from” could be applied to a host of different scenarios and sentences, including when two people disagree in opinion or two things are dissimilar in appearance or nature.
Examples Of How To Use “Differ To” and “Differ From” In A Sentence
So far this article has established that it is correct to use the words “differ from” in a sentence, but it is incorrect to use the words “differ to” in a sentence because the sentence would not make sense.
This rule can be confusing. The word “differ” also looks and sounds quite similar to the word “defer”., which can be used in combination with the word “to” making the phrase “defer to”.
To help you remember that the phrase “differ from” is correct and “differ to” is incorrect, take time to note the following examples:
- Correct: I differ from her in my views about politics.
- Incorrect: I differ to her in my views about politics.
- Correct: The price of jeans in the designer store will differ from the price at the local store.
- Incorrect: The price of jeans in the designer store will differ to the price at the local store.
- Correct: The reasons why some people experience stress may differ from person to person.
- Incorrect: The reasons why some people experience stress may differ to person to person.
- Correct: The essential requirements for funding for new school facilities differ from school to school in the region.
- Incorrect: The essential requirements for funding for new school facilities differ to school to school in the region.
- Correct: Your figures for the predicted profits this year differ from mine.
- Incorrect: Your figures for the predicted profits this year differ to mine.
In simply reading these sentences, it is clear that the incorrect sentences using “differ to” are jarring and do not make sense. “I differ to her in my views about politics” just does not sound right.
How Prevalent Is The Use of “Differ To” and “Differ From”?
Over the years, the phrase “differ from” has been used in sentences far more than the phrase “differ to”. This is because, as this article has discussed, using “differ to” is incorrect.
This graph from Google Ngram Viewer illustrates the usage of “differ to” and “differ from” in the time period 1800 to 2019. The line in red represents the usage of “differ from” and the line in blue represents “differ to”.
As you can see, the phrase “differ from” has always been used far more than “differ to”.
Which Other Prepositions Can Be Used With “Differ”?
The word “from” is most often used following the word “differ”, creating the phrase “differ from”. However, there are other prepositions which are used in combination with the word “differ”.
To help you to understand which other prepositions can be used with the word “differ”, here are some useful examples of possible prepositions to use in a sentence.
The most used prepositions with “differ”, after “differ from”, are “differ with”, “differ in” and “differ on”..
The phrase “differ with” means to disagree with someone or something about a particular subject.
- Unfortunately, I have to differ with you on this subject.
- This was the first time since we met that I begged to differ with him.
- I have to differ with you, Matthew. I think you need to rest more.
The phrase “differ in” means to be different from something or someone else.
- Kate and Samantha differ in many ways.
- The skirt and the dress differ in length and colour.
- I enjoy spending time with him, despite the fact we differ in opinion.
The phrase “differ on” means to disagree with someone or something about a particular subject.
- We will probably differ on many subjects, including religion, when we first meet.
- You clearly differ on this point, but I would prefer the company to cease production.
- You and I will have to agree to differ on that view.
As well as “with”, “in”, and “on, there are many other examples of prepositions that can be used with the word “differ”. Some further helpful example sentences include:
- The parents differ over outfit choices for their children.
- The twins look similar and share interests, but differ over their interest in the sport on TV.
- I have beg to differ over the subject of our child.
- The exam results tend to differ among students every year.
- Views about the Olympic winner seemed to differ among the crowd.
- The statistics differ among age groups enormously.
- Sam and Julie differ about the best place for a vacation.
- Since the argument, Dad noticed his children appeared to differ about most things.
- The friends differ about things and argue more than they used to when they were younger.
“Differ from” is correct to use in a sentence, but “differ to” should not be used. Using “differ two” in a sentence would make the sentence incorrect. There are also a number of other prepositions that can be used in combination with the word “differ”, including “with”, “in” and “on”.