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Can I use chances instead of odds in this sentence? (For kids' better and easy understanding)

Your odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 1,000,000.

If I use chances, then the sentence will be like this:

Your chances of winning the jackpot are 1 in 1,000,000.

Is it also acceptable? Are "odds" and "chances" interchangeable in this sentence?

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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

When used the way "odds" is used in your question the two are pretty much interchangeable, but odds are usually presented as a set of numbers related by to, while chances are a set of numbers related by in, and the numbers mean different things.

When chances are presented using in, the numbers convey the number of chances out of a total. For example, 1 out of 4 means that out of 4 tries you are likely to win once.

When presenting odds using to, the numbers say how many time you're likely to win to how many times you're like to lose. For example, odds of 1 to 4 means that you are likely to win once and lose 4 times. so when the odds are 1 to 4 the chances of winning is 1 in 5.

When the chances of winning are 1 in 1,000,000 the odds are 1 to 999,999 but the difference is so small as to be all but negligible. So in things like lottery odds the terms are pretty much interchangeable.

The key point to notice is whether they use to or in. When they use in they mean out of, that is, the second numbers represents the total and not the number of losses regardless of which word (odds or chances) they use.

Put another way: To should never be used with chances

The chances are 1 to 2 - is wrong.

but, in can be used with either

The odds are 1 in 2 OR The chances are 1 in 2 - are both acceptable.

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There's a huge difference between "1 to 999,999" and "999,999 to 1", and I believe the latter is correct for "one in a million." –  Hellion Jan 3 at 5:00
    
@Hellion I think it all depends on whether you say the odds of winning are 1 to 999,999 and the odds of losing are 1 to 999,999. You're right that in horse racing odds are given as figures like: 16/1 or 25/1 where these are "long" odds- not likely to win, and in that system the odds on a lottery might be in the 999,999/1 range. –  Jim Jan 3 at 6:41
    
The full form would be "999,999 to 1 against" which makes it a bit clearer, I think. –  starsplusplus Feb 19 at 9:56
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