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Consider: A hotel has 10 rooms, and each room had a different room temperature at noon on a certain day. When the temperatures are graphed, which of the following is better as explanation of the graph?

  1. This graph shows the temperature of each room at noon.
  2. This graph shows the temperatures of the respective rooms at noon.

I am afraid whether the first sentence implies that each room had the same room temperature and whether the usage of "respective" in the second is incorrect.

  • I don't understand what this graph shows. You have ten different temperatures, so one axis is temperature. What is the other axis? Can you add a picture of the graph? This is important to understand whether it's OK to use the word respective. – JavaLatte Sep 24 '18 at 7:51
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    This is a merely example, but the other axis may be the room number. – rama9 Sep 24 '18 at 7:53
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    merely an example – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 24 '18 at 17:13
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To indicate the graph shows several rooms' tempuratures you have used the word "each"

This graph shows the temperature of each room at noon.

So, the graph would be expected to have multiple observations.

Usually "respective" is used in an ordered list, so if the context of your second sentence is

The hotel has 10 rooms, two in front, two in back, and six on the second floor.

then your caption might read

This graph shows the temperatures of the respective rooms at noon.

and it would be assumed to have 10 points, the first four on the first floor and the 6 remaining on the second floor and in that order.

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Here are the definitions of each and respective from the Cambridge Dictionary:

each: every thing, person, etc. in a group of two or more, considered separately

respective: relating or belonging to each of the separate people or things you have just mentioned

Note that in the definition of each I have highlighted the words considered separately. Each is therefore perfectly sufficient to indicate that there is a separate temperature for each room.

You say that the other axis of the graph may be the room number. If it is, respective is just about possible, but each is still the better option. Respective is used to assign values in one list to names in another list, when both the names and values are in the text, for example:

For USA, Russia and China the respective GDPs are 17.5, 1.6 and 11.2 trillion dollars per year.

This associates USA with 17.5, Russia with 1.6 and China with 11.2.

For a graph, it would be much better to put labels on the graph (room numbers or whatever you choose) rather than trying to explain in the text.

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Each X simply means you are going through a group/list of X one by one, or doing something to every X in a group.

Respective X means there are 2 groups/lists, and for each item 1, 2, 3 in group/list A, it's associated with corresponding item 1, 2, 3, etc. in group/list B.

This graph shows the temperatures of the respective rooms at noon.

Without further information or context, what's probably happening is that I have in my hand a list of rooms that "match up" with the graph.

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You have told us that the hotel has ten rooms, and presumably the text you're speaking about has told its readers the same. The reader knows we're interested in the hotel's ten rooms.

This graph shows the temperature of each room at noon [on a given day].

This graph shows the hotel's ten rooms and their respective temperatures at noon [on a given day].

There are other ways to state the fact, of course.

Presumably the rooms would be plotted on the X-axis and the temperatures on the Y-axis.

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