“Replacement for” and “replacement of”

By Maeve Maddox

Prepositions and particles are tricky in any language. It’s not an easy matter to explain why some words are followed by to while others are followed by in or for. The native speaker just “knows.”

Recently, I’ve noticed the use of “to” with the word replacement where I’d expect “for” or “of.”

Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics…

Offers a cost effective replacement to broken parcel shelf string…

i have lost 12v ac 2.4 power adapter when moving home and am looking for a replacement to said item…

The two most frequent meanings of replacement are

a person who or thing which replaces another; a substitute.

The action or an act of replacing something

When replacement is used in the first sense, it’s synonymous with substitute. For that reason, “for” is the obvious choice:

I need a replacement for my windshield wiper.
We need a replacement for Mr. Jones the math teacher.

It seems to me that in all three of the examples given above, “for” is the obvious choice:
Homeopathy as a replacement (substitute) for antibiotics…
cost effective replacement (substitute) for broken parcel shelf string…
looking for a replacement (substitute) for said item.

Used in the second sense, replacement is followed by “of.”

Requests for the issuance or replacement of military service medals…

Operations involve either metal pinning with screws and/or plates or replacement of the hip joint with artificial parts…

That’s not to say that “to” must never follow the word replacement. The word is often followed by an infinitive:

Sansom’s replacement to be decided today…

SMPT gateway replacement to make mail testing easier

Sometimes replacement is followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with “to”:

Procedure now calls for the mayor to nominate a replacement to the board…

Budget woes delay shuttle replacement to 2015

However, in these examples, the “to” phrases do not qualify replacement; they modify the verbs: the shuttle replacement is being delayed to 2015; the mayor’s choice will be nominated to the board.

What’s the consensus? Is “replacement to” instead of “replacement for” a regional thing, or an aberration?

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7 Responses to ““Replacement for” and “replacement of””

  • Karla

    Aberration! Here’s another one: my son, who grew up in Texas, and many of his friends say, “it happened on accident.” I’ve always said and heard, “It happened by accident.” “On accident” really bugs me.

  • tony Hearn

    Aberration, pure and simple. And not the only weird and non-native use of prepositions to be found. I heard an on-train announcement here in England the other week that assured me (though not reassured me) that the train would be arriving AT Bristol Temple Meads at such-and-such a time. Until then I would have been sure it would be arriving IN Bristol Temple Meads at the given time. Whereas I may well have been meeting someone AT the station. I’m not convinced that verbs implying motion are usually followed by AT.

    By the by, is anyone else troubled by the phrasal noun “train station”? Trains came first, so their station needs no qualifier, I think. A “bus station” does need its distinguishing qualifier, however. I take my friends to (or meet them at) “the station”, not at “the train station”, which would sound very unnatural.

    Then, similarly, there is “riding”. If I just go “riding” it will be on horseback. If it is on a bicycle, or whatever, then I need to say so.

    Increasingly, however, I find “train station” and “horse-riding” used, presumably either to inform the ignorant, or to reveal the ignorance of the writer.

  • Maeve

    Karla,
    I’m with you! “On accident” gives me chills. As does “waiting on line” (instead of “in line”) at the coffee shop.

    Tony,
    I also cringe at the “horse riding” qualification. I can think of numerous “belts and suspenders” usages like that. “Army soldier” comes to mind.

  • Mary Hodges

    In response to Tony Hearn
    I know most people say “train station” I prefer “railway station”. It just sounds better to me.

    As for “riding”, I’d use “cycling” for riding a bike, “biking” for riding a motor bike and if referring to travel on horseback I would use “horse riding” simply because it is less usual than the other types of riding and might otherwise be confused with them.
    What about “riding” as a passenger in a car or bus or train?

    I have no problem with a train arriving AT a station. Thinking about it, I’d be inclined to use AT for the name of a station and IN for a town or city, eg AT Euston but IN London.

  • Cecily

    @Karla: From other language groups, I get the impression that “on accident” is predominantly a new feature of AmE. I’ve certainly never heard it in England – yet.

    @Mary: I don’t know where you are, but I believe “train station” is the norm in AmE, and increasingly in BrE, where the traditional “station” and “railway station” are losing ground.

  • venqax

    I agree with Cecily re train station, at least in AmE. No one would use mucfh else in the US, unless you were in NYC maybe, and talking about the subway. If anything, a gas station would probably be assumed if you just said “I’m at the station on the corner” without any specification. In the US. a railway has always bee a railroad (RR) in any case, and train station has just as likely been a depot.

    I always thought waiting “on” line, “on” queue was a Britishism and “in” line was AmE. ??

  • venqax

    While we’re at it, what is it with the general all-purpose use of “on” anyway? To me it just sounds sluggish to say, “I want information on this”, or “I am writing a report on the brains of birds”. What is wrong with the word “about”? Is that too many syllables, or something?

    Re the above, I suspect a fallacious equivalence from “on purpose” to “on accident” instead of “by accident”. LIkewise JanUary to FebUary, and drive/drove to dive/dove.

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