I have a question about the usage of according to. I wrote this sentence:"These permits were issued according to the proper process." and some of my English native speaker friends said according to was not correct here. They told me to change it to "in accordance with".

But aren't they the synonyms?I always thought according to = in accordance with = be pursuant to = in compliance with.https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/according%20to

And longman and oxford also says according to means following or in agreement with https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/according-to:

  1. in a way that agrees with a system or plan, or obeys a set of rules

The game will be played according to rules laid down for the 1992 Cup.

Everything went according to plan, and we arrived on time.

And I also found some examples from the New York Times as follows: 

However, to become a proponent of truth, trials must be conducted according to the strictest standards of due process

But war is not conducted according to the requirements of due process

.... if lesser (i.e. non-Piracy) charges are to be pressed, which must be done according to the civilian court process of that victim vessel's country.

Could you please help me with this?

1 Answer 1


There is a subtle difference between "according to" and "in accordance with."

  • "According to" used used to refer to the source of the rules or instructions. "According to my doctor, I should lose weight." (My doctor instructed me to lose weight.)

  • "In accordance with" refers to acting in agreement with the rules or instructions. "In accordance with my doctor's advice, I'm trying to lose weight." (My action, losing weight, agrees with my doctor's instructions.)

Someone might disagree with me here, but I think it gets blurry when we are talking about laws, because the laws are rules, but it is also possible to talk about the law as a source of rules. So you can use either "According to" or "In accordance with."

  • "According to the law, I have to pay taxes." (The law is the source of my obligation to pay taxes.)

  • "In accordance with the law, I have to pay taxes." (My action, paying taxes, agrees with the law.)

"Process" is a set of rules or procedures, so "in accordance with" would be correct. However, "process" (and "due process") are also legal terms of art that can be viewed as a source of rules (the fundamental rules of fairness that must be followed in legal proceedings). When used in this sense, "according to" could also be correct.

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