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The bride's elegant dress reflected her good taste.

The bride's elegant dress is a reflection on her good taste.

The bride's elegant dress is a reflection of her good taste.

Would you tell me if they mean the same thing?

If they would mean the same thing, what about the following question--link--? or I mean how could we distinguish such a distinction between these functions?

Similarly, what about these:

A student's grades reflected her teacher

A student's grades are a reflection on her teacher

A student's grade are a reflection of her teacher

When, where or in which situation don't they mean the same? How can we distinguish such a distinction?

  • 2
    It looks easy but has great subtlety. +1 :) – Maulik V Sep 17 '14 at 7:22
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The bride's elegant dress reflected her good taste.

Here, we can see her good taste in her choice of dress. Her good taste is the cause of her choice of dress. Because she has good taste, she chose this dress.

The bride's elegant dress is a reflection on her good taste.

Here, her good taste gets augmented by her choice of dress. Her good taste is a result of her choice of dress. Because she chose this dress, she has good taste. This does actually seem a strange thing to say.

The bride's elegant dress is a reflection of her good taste.

This is a perfectly fine was to express the first sentence. Again, the good taste is the cause of her choice of dress.

A student's grades reflected her teacher.

Because the grades are good, we know her teacher is good -> the teacher caused the good grades.

A student's grades are a reflection on her teacher.

Because the grades are good, we think of the teacher as a good teacher -> the grades caused the teacher to look good.

A student's grade are a reflection of her teacher.

Again, the same meaning as the first option -> because the teacher is good, the grades are good.

A is a refection of B means that we can explain that A is something (good or bad) because of B. A reflects B means the same thing.

A is a reflection on B means that because A is something (good or bad), B will appear to also be that (good or bad).

2

The bride's elegant dress reflected her good taste.

The bride's {some adjective} dress is a reflection on her good taste.

The bride's elegant dress is a reflection of her good taste.

In the second sentence, I would not include "good". The idiom "is a reflection on" normally implies at least the potential for a negative association. For example, if one substitutes "gaudy" as the adjective. But usually the reflection is on a third party.

Your (drunken) behavior, deputy, is a reflection on me, the sheriff of Dodge.

Students, your behavior is a reflection on this school. At the game this Saturday, I expect there to be no fighting or name-calling.

The mass exodus of American city-dwellers into the suburbs in the 1950s was a reflection of the growing popularity of the family automobile. The traffic congestion on suburban roads today is a poor reflection on the regional planners who were responsible for striking a balance between highways and alternative forms of public transportation, such as street-cars and regional rail systems: most of the public funding went towards the building of new roads.

  • So, considering all that you have taught me, I think we could use them interchangeably, couldn't we? – nima Sep 19 '14 at 8:26
  • I would not use them interchangeably. There is a nuanced difference between "reflection on" and "reflection of". I would use "is a reflection on" in contexts of censure or warning or criticism (including self-criticism), i.e. with behavior that may redound, or has redounded, to the discredit of the party delivering the warning or the censure or the criticism. "Reflection on her good taste" is not idiomatic. Your not understanding this nuanced difference is a reflection on me: my explanation was not clear enough. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 19 '14 at 13:55
  • thanks. But, what does"Reflection on her good taste" is not idiomatic imply? – nima Sep 20 '14 at 9:09
  • "not idiomatic" means native speakers would not say it in that way. A native speaker would say "reflection of her good taste". Both locutions (reflection of, reflection on) have to do with causality. Her good taste caused her to buy that dress. But "reflection on" is a particular kind of causality, that is, blame. Her bad taste caused her to wear a party dress to a funeral. The party dress was a reflection on her taste. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 21 '14 at 19:19
  • You can also think of the distinction between reflection of and reflection on as the differences between responsibility and blame. Something or someone can be responsible for good outcomes and bad outcomes. But something or someone can be to blame only for bad outcomes. Her good taste was responsible for her choice of a suitable dress. The suitable dress was a reflection of her good taste. Her bad taste was to blame for her wearing a party dress to a funeral; the party dress was a reflection on her taste. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 22 '14 at 11:41
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I would normally take "reflection on" as "somebody's thoughts on/about something" and "reflection of" as a structure implying something is a symptom of something else.

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