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In contention means - having a chance to win (something, such as a title or position)

  1. Could you elaborate on the nature of the chance to win? If ten people are taking part in a contest, are all of them in contention for the prize because the contest is not over yet? Or should we consider someone to be in contention based on other criteria such as their excellent abilities or something else?

  2. Can "in contention" be used in other context than sports related ones? For instance, "I am still in contention to write a top-notch essay". which should mean that I am eligible to write it, I have a chance to do it.

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    I think that there's often an implication that there's a significant chance (not just any chance) of winning. So at the beginning of, say, the basketball season, the sports media might discuss which teams they think are "in contention" to win the championship, meaning which teams they think are good enough at the outset to win. Of course, every team has a bare chance of winning, but the lousy teams would likely not be described as "in contention" to win the championship.
    – cruthers
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

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If you are in contention for something, you are competing with other people for it, maybe in a sporting competition, a [political] election, or some other contest.

You can't say that you are in contention to write an essay (unless you are entering an essay competition).

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To be "in contention" for something means it's possible for you to win it.

Technically, this means the competition isn't over and anyone who isn't mathematically eliminated is "in contention", but we normally use this expression for people who have a reasonable chance of winning, based on their abilities and their current position.

It has to be something you can win, not just something you are able to do, so you cannot be "in contention" for merely doing something very well, like completing a high quality essay.

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