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A is distinguished from B in that / by that, unlike the latter, the former is intentional.

Which one is more idiomatic: "distinguished in that" or "distinguished by that"?

2

Neither of them is correct or idiomatic.

in that means, roughly, "for the reason that". We use it to introduce a statement that explains something we just said or gives more information.

by that means, roughly, "through the action of 'that'" - that is, literally something you're referring to as "that".

After "A is distinguished from B" I would expect by (because the use of is distinguished implies a passive voice sentence) but not "by that". For example, I might say:

A is distinguished from B by being intentional.

or

A is distinguished from B by the fact that A is intentional.

The only time I would use "by that" is like this:

A is intentional and B is not; they are distinguished by that. (i.e., "by the existence of that fact")

The way that you use in that is to refer to a fact:

A is different from B in that A is intentional. (i.e., "for the reason of the fact that")

  • How to say it if I want to keep the original structure? Should I use "by the fact that" instead of "in that"? – Sasan Dec 14 '17 at 20:56
  • I think "by the fact that" is a good, idiomatic way to say it. – stangdon Dec 14 '17 at 21:12
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Question: A is distinguished from B in that / by that, unlike the latter, the former is intentional.

Correction: A is different from B in that, unlike A, it is intentional. [Note: there are other ways of writing this A is different from B in that it is intentional, unlike A]

One thing is different from another; one differs from another.

Distinguish is used slightly different: He can't distinguish A from B. To distinguish means to tell the difference between two things. People distinguish one thing from another. Things do not distinguish other things and therefore, one thing is not distinguished from another as given in the question unless a person is involved.

The passive use of distinguish to mean telling the difference between two things (not with the meaning of "to stand out" as in, "He is a distinguished speaker.") is somewhat heavy.

Man 1 and Man 2 in the line-up of suspects were distinguished by the witness.

  • What about "What distinguishes A from B is the fact that, unlike the latter, the former is intentional." – Sasan Dec 14 '17 at 21:13

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