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I have a question about "in agreement with" and "in accordance with". Dictionaries think they are approximately the same. But for these sentence pairs:

1a. He acted in agreement with the rules.
1b. He acted in accordance with the rules.

2a. His behavior was in agreement with the smirk on his face.
2b. His behavior was in accordance with the smirk on his face.

, are there differences between the a-b pairs?

  • 1
    The register of in agreement with and in accordance with gives a satirical literary spin to the sentences about the smirk on his face. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 2 '15 at 18:24
  • This is an interesting ngram graph, though I have no immediate distillation of it. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 30 '15 at 9:14
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Very little, from what I can determine. This comes down to the definitions of the words and/or how they're used colloquially.

When I read the first pair, however, B implies to me that the subject does not particularly agree with the rules, but conforms to them for the sake of avoiding trouble. A implies that he is following the rules and also agrees with them as a part of his principles.

I can't determine any meaningful difference in the second pair, though. However, "in agreement with" does sound a little strange to my ear, but that's probably because I've never seen or heard something that isn't a document being used as the object of the prepositional phrase "with the..." which is a part of "in agreement with."

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Agree is a transitive verb, requiring an active agreement, not a passive state of being in agreement with. When it is said 'we agreed' or 'we are agreed' then it is after the fact of actively agreeing.

1a. He and the rules did not agree about anything, actually or tacitly, ergo incorrect.

1b. Correct because the rules and his behaviour were consistent in what was required and what was done.

2a & 2b. His behaviour did not agree with his smirk, nor did his behaviour consult his smirk and then consequently behave accordingly, ergo both incorrect.

Better: His behaviour was consistent with the smirk on his face, meaning an observer could look at either his smirk or his behaviour and intuit or expect or understand the other.

  • I'm not convinced "Acting in agreement with the rules" is really bogus. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 30 '15 at 9:12

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