Suppose that the distance between A and B is 1m, is it correct and natural to say

A and B are spaced by 1 meter

up vote 24 down vote accepted

As pointed out by @J.R it seems that spaced by is a correct expression.

Here is another variant:

According to Oxford Dictionary, you can use the particle apart instead of by.

space VERB

Position (two or more items) at a distance from one another.
the poles are spaced 3m apart

  • 2
    Yep, "spaced [x] meters apart" definitely sounds more natural to me (in US English, at least... or northeast US English, anyway). – V2Blast Aug 16 at 22:37
  • Just advice make sure they understand compeltely. For example spaced end to end or start to start? For example this could happen: youtube.com/watch?v=Ef93WmlEho0 – Codingale Aug 17 at 1:02

Using spaced by x where x refers to some quantity is actually fairly common in scientific literature.

Some examples:

The black vertical lines are guides to the eye and they are spaced by 0.7 ps.

Each aperture is a few metres across and they are spaced by a few tens of metres.

On the front surface two semicircular electrodes with a radius of 1 mm are spaced by 100 μm.

Absorption does not accumulate between the spectral holes because they are spaced by only a few times the minimum observed spectral-hole width.

  • 7
    My feeling is that "spaced by" works better for multiple objects all at the same spacing, as in your first two examples. It doesn't quite feel right for only two objects. Not sure why... – AndyT Aug 16 at 11:00
  • @AndyT - I agree that it has a slightly awkward feel, although I think it can work in technical contexts. – J.R. Aug 16 at 11:28

It's understandable, but doesn't feel quite right. I would prefer either

A and B are spaced apart by 1 meter

or

A and B are spaced 1 meter apart

However, assuming that you are measuring in SI units and not using the size of your gas or electric meter as a unit of length, then the word is METRE.

  • 10
    Metre vs meter is British English vs American English. – AndyT Aug 16 at 10:58
  • 7
    I don't see any evidence that metre is the "international standard" and "meter" is some kind of aberration. Meter simply happens to be the US spelling, just like theater/re, fiber/re, centre/re, etc. – stangdon Aug 16 at 11:38
  • @stangdon Meter is the German spelling, which American and Phillipines English borrowed. The original spelling in French is what got borrowed by every other English dialect. – Austin Hemmelgarn Aug 16 at 13:55
  • @stangdon "Metre" is the BIPM spelling (International Bureau of Weights and Measures) - which is the closest to international agreement we'll get on these things (USA is a signatory to the Metre Convention that formed the BIPM). Not that it means "Meter" is incorrect, it is obviously fine in AmE contexts. – Bilkokuya Aug 17 at 10:56

It's bad English in the sense that it is confusing and creates ambiguity. Although I can't give you the exact grammatic rules for prepositions (i.e. by), it 'feels' as though there is a word missing from your sentence, hence the ambiguity.

One would normally say: - A and B are spaced 1 meter apart (singular case), - NN are spaced by 1 meter intervals, (generally a plural context) - or by/at/in equally spaced gaps, etc.

  • And an afterthought …. all of @JR's examples using 'spaced by' suggest a plural context, whereas Naetmul's question referred to a single instance. – Native English speaker Aug 16 at 9:40
  • What do you mean with "a plural context"? Notice that OP mentioned two items and this phrase taken from J.R's answer refers to two items too: "On the front surface two semicircular electrodes with a radius of 1 mm are spaced by 100 μm." – RubioRic Aug 16 at 10:22
  • RubioRic, first, scientific journals are noted for quality of science, not quality of English!! In those examples, most numbers can (ambiguously!) be read as multiple spaces. However that specific case is not even grammatical, so is an invalid example even though understandable! - It should say 'There ARE two semi-circular electrodes OF radius 1mm on the front surface (of what?), which are spaced 100 microns apart (rather than spaced by!). Incidentally, Scientific journals and Instruction manuals are clearer when written in present tense, instead of opaque continuous tenses often adopted. – Native English speaker Aug 16 at 11:28
  • 2
    Notice that OP has not stated any context. Maybe he/she is writing a paper. Scientific texts may use non-conversational English but that does not imply a poor quality [Note: I've not downvoted you] – RubioRic Aug 16 at 11:34
  • 2
    How is there ambiguity? I can only think of one way of interpreting the sentence. – CJ Dennis Aug 17 at 3:36

These variants all sound "natural":

A and B:

  • are spaced by 1 meter
  • are 1 meter apart
  • are set 1 meter apart
  • are separated by 1 meter
  • have a 1 meter separation
  • have a 1 meter offset
  • are offset by 1 meter

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.