I have a vague idea of how the three prepositions should be used after the word "change", but I cannot extrapolate a rule regarding their usages.

For example, I can write sentences like the following ones:

I had a change of heart. There was an apparent change in her attitude. He turned on the air conditioning, which caused a significant change to the room temperature.

However, I am quite clueless as to whether the three prepositions are interchangeable in most cases. What is the "rule", if there is any, that makes "in" appropriate and "of" inappropriate in certain contexts?

For example, why a change of government, but not a change in/to government? Why a change in the weather, but not a change of/to the weather? Why a change in the patient's condition but not a change of the patient's condition?

I was hoping that perhaps you can help me untangle this puzzle. Many thanks.

1 Answer 1


Although you might hear one of these prepositions more with one particular subject than other, often they could all be used in different contexts, because each preposition has a different meaning and use.

I'm going to take just one of your examples and show how it could be used with each preposition. However, note that each preposition has multiple dictionary definitions, so they may not be applied exactly the same way for every subject.

There has been a change of government.

"Of" relates to the entire subject, so this could mean that the whole government has been changed by replacing it with another. It could be a change in the type of government - for example, one political party may have been voted out in favour of another, a different one.

There has been a change to government.

"To" points toward the subject. This means that there has been a change made and the government is now different in some way. It doesn't mean that the entire government has been changed. In fact, in this context "government" may not even refer to the governing party - it could refer to the way in which they govern or the structure of the government.

There is has been a change in government.

"In" means within something. Depending on the intended meaning of "government" it could actually mean either of the last two examples. If you take "government" to mean the ruling political party, it could mean a complete change, just like a "change in heart" can mean a complete change in the way you feel about something. However, just like "a change in heart" points to a change within yourself, if you take "government" to mean the structure of government, you could also take this to mean some kind of internal change within the existing system.

Because of the multiple meanings of each preposition, it would be impossible to cover every possible meaning of every possible scenario. Hopefully, this shows that the choice of preposition is not just idiomatically linked to each subject, but by the intended meaning of the statement.

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