How does the meaning change with the usage of different prepositions after 'common' :

  • something common for people,
  • something common to people,
  • something common in people
  • 1
    I believe you can use any of them, depending on context. For example, Allergies are not (something) common in breast-fed babies. Computers and mobile phones are (something) common to us nowadays. However, I think for might be more appropriate in another constructions, e.g. It's common for people to bring their own rackets. Jan 28, 2014 at 12:33
  • 1
    It's usually best if you include complete sentences as examples.
    – user230
    Jan 28, 2014 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


I would like to argue that, of all the three cases proposed by the OP:

  1. something common to people
  2. something common for people
  3. something common in people

only in the first case, the preposition is linking to the adjective common. In the other two cases, the phrases for people and in people are actually independent adverbial phrases.

Following are the arguments supporting this statement:

The English Collocation Dictionary (ozdic.com)

Ozdic.com lists to as the only preposition used to complement the adjective common. Ozdic gives the following example of use:

This attitude is common to most young men in the armed services

Immediately, the question raises: how can we interpret the other two cases in the OP's question? Here's how:

The construct for + (object) + to + (infinitive-verb)

I argue that OP's case using preposition for is actually a case of the construct for + (object) + to + (infinitive-verb). Let's look at a full example:

It is common for the youngers to lack discretion

This example could be paraphrased as: it is common that the youngers lack discretion; showing that in this type of construct, for the youngers does not really complement common but to lack discretion.

Note that in this construct the focus is on the infinitive verb to lack discretion rather than the object the youngers.

The adverbial phrase in + (location)

Again, I argue that in this case the preposition in does not link to adjective common, but rather it forms the adverbial phrase in + (location). Let's look at a full example:

Allergies are not common in breast-fed babies

To illustrate that the adverbial phrase in breast-fed babies does not link to adjective common, let's rephrase the adverbial phrase:

Allergies are not common before babies are weaned


It all depends which case you are talking about...

Maybe, this makes it clearer.

It's common for people to react badly if the government does not protect their rights.
The issue of racism is common to people of X.
These symptoms are quite common in people above age 65.

  • 1
    If something is common to two or more people or groups, it is done, possessed, or used by them all. ⇒ Moldavians and Romanians share a common language. ⇒ [+ to] Such behaviour is common to all young people. from Collins Dictionary link
    – Semicolon
    Jan 28, 2014 at 13:12

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