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“identical to” and “identical with”

A fairly authorative, university entrance exam site says this:

Identical with (not to): This bid is identical with the one submitted by you.

However, I have found that “identical to” is more commonly used. Is there a difference? The dictionaries accept both versions.

  • September 1, 2005
  • Posted by angie
  • Filed in Grammar

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The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) says that both are acceptable.

m56 September 6, 2005, 6:37am

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I suspect that the university equates the word "identical" with "same", in which case it would make sense to use "with", since we say "same with", not "same to", do we not?

However, I find that "identical to" is more accurate, since I connote "identical" with "equal". To say something is identical ais to say that it is exactly the same as another, or simply, equal.

Since we say "equal to", not "equal with", personally I believe "to" is very rightly used more commonly. i'm no authority of course, but this reputable university is simply being elitist in my opinion.

zaihan.k September 17, 2005, 9:27am

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But please remember that we compare items "with" one another, not "to" one another, as in "Compared with Clinton, Bush is an unredeemable dullard."
It may sound odd, but it is, nonetheless, correct. We newspaper cope editors have to know such things.

Dave September 25, 2005, 8:52am

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When using Identical and Compared, think of using the two words with which you plan to compare as two objects standing side by side. The two are with each other: They are not standing to each other. So you would compare the first WITH the second, not TO.

Rhen September 26, 2005, 4:25pm

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I've always though "identical with" was improper. You don't say "similar with" or "equal with". I might be wrong; I hate English.

Mike September 27, 2005, 3:08pm

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Anonymous September 15, 2008, 4:00pm

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Mokachocalata, I liked your position. I support it. I had known that "identical" is more closely a synonym with "equal."

So watch where I put my periods.

David Calman September 15, 2008, 8:59pm

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M56 has spoken spam here.

David Calman September 15, 2008, 9:00pm

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this language is junk. ah what am i gonna do at my GMAT :(

is the above correct?

deepak September 24, 2008, 4:46am

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GMAT states that the correct form is "identical with" (not "identical to").

Anonymous September 24, 2008, 5:01pm

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I often browse this site and find the posts interesting.
As a Brit working in Germany I sit here wondering about you say I say(US vs Br).
I have to say here for me it is"identical to" but my German guys often write in Tech. docs "identical with" and as the company use at HQ American English as standard I have accepted that if they really want to use "with" and know what they mean I let it go.
But to me it is Something is identical to something else.
But interesting all the same.

phyllis September 30, 2008, 4:00am

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google vote:

identical to: 25,200,000
identical with: 3,850,000 wins by almost 10 to 1!

Oh, and absolutely no one says "same with" when comparing things. They say "same AS". If you do hear "same with", it's something like "same with me" to show agreement, NOT to compare two things, like "when it comes to warranty, BMW is the same AS Mercedes". In "same with me", the with is not serving the same function as "as". You could even make a case for saying that the "as" is elided and it should be "same as with me".

Anonymous September 30, 2008, 5:01am

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In the GMAT exam, one should you "identical with" and not "identical to".
The reason is that "with" indicated a 2-side connection and "to" indicated 1 side.
Speak to - means one is talking and the other is listening,
speak with - means that both sides are talking and there is a discussion.

So if A is identical with B it has to be that B is identical to A hence a 2 side connection and so "with" has to be used.

Tal October 2, 2008, 11:03pm

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interesting posts

devesh December 1, 2008, 1:03am

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In MY locality, it's always been “identical to” and not “identical with.”

David Calman December 6, 2008, 12:15am

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Since words below derives from the latin languague, I date to say that in english it´s correct to say IDENTICAL TO

In spanish we use as follows:

identico a - identical to

similar a - similar to

comparado con - compared with

Alexis March 16, 2009, 8:31am

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The two phrases are distinct in their referrals of their objects. "Identical with" is more appropriately used when the comparison is between animate objects; in contradistinction to "identical to" being used to compare objects of the other kind.

Henry April 4, 2009, 1:21am

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I can believe that "compared to" and "identical to" states equivalence to a fixed reference, while "compared with" and "identical with" states bidirectional similarity. Similarly, "similar to" would be acceptable since one acts a a reference for comparison, while "similar with" would be redundant. The example of speaking is equally interesting. I suppose "equal" requires an object for comparison. Therefore, "equal with" would seem like "equal amongst themselves" and would not be accepted. I guess the acceptable form would be "equal to one another".

I'm still curious of how animate and inanimate objects would matter. Perhaps someone can explain?

Peter April 6, 2009, 2:02am

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My old thesis supervisor used to insist that the objects being referred to were of the same identity, thus "identical with". In the sense that there is no comparison, because they are grouped into the one identity. He would claim if you are comparing, don't use identical, because it is a designation of total sameness.

But then he also insisted on "consisted in".........

By the way, on the "equal" issue: "The racer finished equal with the world record" sounds ok to me. At least not obviously jarring.

jollyboy August 31, 2009, 4:13am

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I think that the difference between "identical to" and "identical with" lies in the fact that the former is more commonly used in the UK and the latter is more commonly used in the USA. Being of British nationality and a teacher of English in China, I believe that the following are correct and acceptable:

Be identical to
Be equal to
Be similar to
Be different to/ from
Be the same as

The prepositions "to" and "with" have varying implications according to the context in which they are used. Here, "to" implies "in relation to", whereas "with" implies "in relation with".

luofu7 January 8, 2010, 3:42am

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"Identity" indicates sameness, oneness. "With", which indicates a close association, is therefore, the proper preposition. The preposition "to" indicates separation, whether spatial or conceptual, and is inappropriately coupled with "identical".

You can go from here "to" there, but you go "with" someone else, and "with" a purpose. If the two of you go for the same reason, you go "with" identical purposes, or your purpose is "identical with" theirs.

Similarly, you can compare this "to" that. But if the similarity of the objects is perfect, when you compare them "to" each other, you find that they are "identical with" each other.


rmyers January 9, 2010, 1:14pm

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The short answer is that both "identical to" and "identical with" are accepted usages. My research reveals that the latter construction is older, but the former is not particularly new. The OED traces "identical with" to the 17th century; Merriam-Webster cites a usage of "identical with" from 1922. If "Scientific American" was using "identical to" in the 1920s it is a safe bet that the usage was well established by then. M-W sees a shift from a prevalence of "identical with" to an equality with "identical to" from about 1950 onward. Or should I say "equality to?"

The argument that tries to narrowly define the prepositions "with" and "to" as associative and separative ignore the complexity of both words. (It is perhaps ironic that the smallest words can sometimes have the most varied usages.) The preposition "with" can be used to separate (broke with tradition, done with arguing) just as "to" can be used to associate (come to fruition, came to believe).

And that old thesis supervisor – I think you mean "advisor" – who insisted that the objects being referred to as "identical" were of the same identity was mistaken. One definition of "identical" is "having such close resemblance as to be essentially the same." Identical twins are, in fact, two distinct persons.

The fact is that both "identical to" and "identical with" are in common usage, and neither causes any confusion. If you prefer one to the other, use it.

Just because a "fairly authorative, university entrance exam site" prefers one usage doesn't make the other wrong. They are authorities on entrance exams, not English. Take their advice for the exam itself and move on.

douglas.bryant January 10, 2010, 4:07pm

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In philosophical vernacular, at least, there is a distinction between the two:

"is identical with" means "looks exactly the same as", like two of the same kind of shirt

"is identical to" means "is the same thing as", like H2O and water.

Supposedly, this would make "identical to" a much stronger statement than "identical with", although who knows how much philosophical jargon coincides with typical/correct English usage ^____^

ocsenave+painintheenglish January 20, 2010, 10:20pm

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It's 'to': "Compared to Clinton, Obama is a complete disaster." "With" is a relatively new formulation.

editor August 23, 2010, 12:59pm

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"Identical with" is shown in older dictionaries.
"Identical to" is seen more in recent usages.
How does the phrase "identified with" throw light on this subject?

peterkpma February 5, 2011, 3:02am

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Has to be "identical to" "similar to" "same as"!
With does not come into it in any of these cases!
Common usage does not mean it is correct!

Hairy Scot February 8, 2011, 3:48pm

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douglas.bryant - Good post. One correction, though. You write that "the preposition ... 'to' can be used to associate (come to fruition, came to believe)." In the latter example, however, "to" is not acting as a preposition but as part of the infinitive "to believe." And I'm not sure the first example really illustrates your point: you "come to fruition" just as you "come to your house" or to an idea or to anything or anywhere else. The "to" indicates a destination or direction, and isn't really associative in the way that it is in "identical to." (A better example, possibly: "TO MY MIND, either way works.")

Anyway, just some nitpicking, none of which takes away from your points.

dushan April 6, 2011, 11:38am

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identical adjective
BrE /aɪˈdentɪkl/ ; NAmE /aɪˈdentɪkl/

*similar in every detail
*a row of identical houses
*The two pictures are similar, although not identical.
*identical to somebody/something: Her dress is almost identical to mine.
*identical with somebody/something: The number on the card should be identical with the one on the chequebook.
Cheerio! :)

Neige July 24, 2016, 12:36am

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Yes     No