Can anyone please tell me what's the difference between in and of in the following sentences? Are they both correct?

  • Lionel Messi is the greatest player of/in the Argentina football team.

  • John is the best student in/of the class.

  • The roads in/of the USA are wider than those of Russia.


2 Answers 2


X of Y has a lot of meanings. Some of them are:

  • Expresses a "belonging" or "ownership" relationship - Y belongs to X

  • Expresses the "component" part of a "component-whole" relationship - X is a part of Y.

X in Y has several meanings, but it mostly means.

  • X is completely or substantially surrounded by all sides/borders/edges of Y. This can be "3D" (containers or covers; I'm in a box) or "2D" (places or areas; I'm in a square I drew on the ground with chalk).

If Y is a large container-like entity, like a country, building, etc. the things that "belong to" it or the things that are a "part of" it may lie within it.

So I can say 1st Street is both a road of (because it constitutes part of) and a road in (because it's surrounded on all sides by the borders of) my neighboorhood, city, etc.


In these cases, in and of are interchangeable. Of relates to being a part of something, in relates to a group somebody is in.

If you think of Argentina, the class and the USA, these are places, which also can be interpreted as entities, giving a reason why both prepositions can be used.

However, I think that if you use of in the first sentence, it will give you the impression that Messi is one of the all-time greats of the Argentina football team, if not the greatest; however, in will imply that he is the best in the current Argentina football team.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .