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I have a doubt on the expression "in tandem".

Can more than two things "move in tandem"?

Or is it always limited to two things as one would expect from the tandem bike origin of the expression (a bike for two individuals)?

Example with two things (the "copper price" and the "index") - So I guess it is correct:

The copper price moves in tandem with China's industrial production index

Example with more than two things ("asset prices" refers to an indefinite, very large number of assets) - I am not sure if it is correct:

Asset prices move in tandem throughout the cycles

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    Tandem always applies to two things. More than two things move together. Oct 20, 2022 at 15:34
  • That's what I tend to think too, but in my research I have found several examples in newspaper articles and books where tandem is used for more than two things. Unfortunately I cannot copy those examples because of copyright.
    – user163195
    Oct 20, 2022 at 16:02
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    Did you look in any dictionaries? Cambridge Dictionary (British) says 'two things working together' Merriam-Webster (American) says 'a group of two or more ... acting in conjunction'. Oct 20, 2022 at 16:14
  • Yes. Definitions are contradictory, as your message shows. That's why I am asking. Logic would suggest that tandem applies only to two things because of the bicycle origin but then it seems to be accepted sometimes or by some for more than two things. As I am not native, I cannot tell if the use feels okay for more than two things, as in my example sentence ("Asset prices move in tandem throughout the cycles"). Having said this, the majority of examples that I found in my research involved only two things, which is maybe telling.
    – user163195
    Oct 20, 2022 at 16:22
  • FWIW, copying snippets of text from a copyrighted source to ask questions is legal. A large number of questions on this site are based on mainstream print journalism and as many answers include direct quotes from online dictionaries.
    – gotube
    Oct 20, 2022 at 16:38

1 Answer 1

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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a definition of in tandem is:

a group of two or more arranged one behind the other or used or acting in conjunction

I disagree with the notion that in tandem only applies to two things, and this confirms that it does not, at least according to Merriam-Webster.

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