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expert on/in/at Options
dave freak
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015 12:04:42 PM
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Is there any difference between:

#1 I'm not an expert on English.
#2 I'm not an expert in English.
#3 I'm not an expert at English.


I saw some native speakers from the forum use "on", so I followed suit. However, I would like to know why there are as many as three options. It has to be some difference, then? Which one requires knowledge, and which practise? Which both? Which one means I'm an expert by education/profession? Which one means I'm just into something?

Dave
NKM
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015 2:01:15 PM

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dave freak wrote:
Is there any difference between:

#1 I'm not an expert on English.
#2 I'm not an expert in English.
#3 I'm not an expert at English.


I saw some native speakers from the forum use "on", so I followed suit. However, I would like to know why there are as many as three options. It has to be some difference, then? Which one requires knowledge, and which practise? Which both? Which one means I'm an expert by education/profession? Which one means I'm just into something?


The first two sentences seem to be lacking something, as if needing another word or phrase to make them complete.

#1 "An expert on [the subject of] English" would be someone who knows a lot about English, probably by education and perhaps as a profession.

#2 "An expert in English" seems to me very strange, and not something I'd expect to hear from a native speaker. (However, "An expert in the use of English" makes sense.)

#3 "An expert at [using] English" would be someone who is very good at using English. (requires both knowledge and practice.)

dave freak
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015 3:21:54 PM
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Great, NKM! Thank you again for sharing your knowledge with me. I appreciate it and am wiser! What struck me was that all three (at/in/on) by most dictionaries. My professor told me to find out whether there is some difference in meaning between them. They seem to be fixed phrases.

To sum up:

an expert on = knowledgeable
an expert at = skillful
an expert in = ?

My findings:

"An expert in child psychology." (Oxford)

"He's a world expert on marine mammals." (Longman)

Interestingly, I found out that we can use "an expert for":

"He is the administration’s foreign-policy expert for eastern Europe." (Cambridge)

Isn't English beautiful?
NKM
Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2015 12:01:03 AM

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Beautiful, and always surprising!
NKM
Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2015 2:15:53 PM

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Hi Dave -

I woke up this morning thinking about what I told you yesterday, and decided that I hadn't told you enough. So here's some more.

═════════════════════════════════════════════════════

- "An expert in child psychology" is OK, but "an expert in English" seems strange.

Why? Because English is a language, so "in English" is a phrase with its own meaning. Knowing that, we feel that the "in" is connected with the word that follows it ("English") and not with the word that comes before it ("expert").

═════════════════════════════════════════════════════

- "He is the administration’s foreign-policy expert for eastern Europe." (Cambridge)

Don't be misled by this. "Expert for" is not a fixed phrase.

The only reason this sentence works is exactly the same reason that "an expert in English" doesn't work: the "for" is part of the phrase "for eastern Europe," not part of what comes before it. The word "expert" in this case doesn't need to be modified by what comes after it, because "foreign-policy expert" means "expert in foreign policy."

- "He is the administration’s expert in foreign-policy for eastern Europe."

thar
Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2015 2:38:16 PM

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dave freak wrote:
Great, NKM! Thank you again for sharing your knowledge with me. I appreciate it and am wiser! What struck me was that all three (at/in/on) by most dictionaries. My professor told me to find out whether there is some difference in meaning between them. They seem to be fixed phrases.

To sum up:

an expert on = knowledgeable
an expert at = skillful
an expert in = ?

Yes
he is expert at tagging marine mammals. He is very good at it, skillful.
You would often use 'is expert at...' as an adjective. But you can also say 'he is an expert at....' with a noun.
eg
He is an expert at manipulating people into feeling sorry for him.


My findings:
three different usages. I have filled in all the alternatives for all three scenarios.
"An expert in child psychology." (Oxford)
He is an expert in his field, in the discpline of "child psychology". There are lots of experts, and he is one of them.
He is an expert in [the field of] child psychology.
He is also a respected researcher in child psychology, a famous name in child psychology (the subject)

He is an expert on child psychology. (he knows all about it - the theories, the methods - he can teach trainee psychologists. Presumably he can also put that knowledge into practice and treat children)
he is an expert on the treatment of traumatised children (he knows all about it, he knows all about it)
He is the Psychology Council's 'expert' for Child Psychology. (That is his appointed area of responsibility).
He is an expert at getting children to open up about their problems. (skillful)



"He's a world expert on marine mammals." (Longman)
he is an expert on that thing. He knows all about it. He has great knowledge on the topic.
He is an expert on marine mammals. (he knows all about them)
he is an expert in marine mammal biology. (the subject)
He is the U.N's 'expert' for marine biology. (the area of responsibility)
He is an expert at interpreting whalesong. )(skillful)


Interestingly, I found out that we can use "an expert for":

"He is the administration’s foreign-policy expert for eastern Europe." (Cambridge)

He is the expert for Eastern Europe. That is his area of assignment. He is the policy expert for the administration. Like being an Ambassador for Russia or a government Minister for Sports and Culture.
He is an expert on Eastern Europe. (he knows all about it)
He is an expert in Eastern European policy studies. (in that subject)
He is an expert at predicting military coups. (skillful)

I put the 'expert' in inverted commas in the other examples because it is not a standard job title. It is being used as one, and makes sense, but would feel a bit odd.

That is my impression of the difference. Hopefully those examples illustrate it. I don't know if others will disagree and think I am being too categorical with the distinction.




Isn't English beautiful?
dave freak
Posted: Saturday, March 14, 2015 3:14:24 PM
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Joined: 4/29/2013
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Good evening guys!

NKM!

I really appreciate your effort put to help me. You did help me. I want to thank you for putting me correct in my reasoning. I stand corrected. I can admit that you are an expert on the English langauge.

Dear thar,

The fact that you are an expert on English wasn't any news to me, given the first answer of yours.

Thank you to all!
Allana
Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 4:56:53 PM

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dave freak wrote:
Good evening guys!

NKM!

I really appreciate your effort put to help me. You did help me. I want to thank you for putting me correct in my reasoning. I stand corrected. I can admit that you are an expert on the English langauge.

Dear thar,

The fact that you are an expert on English wasn't any news to me, given the first answer of yours.

Thank you to all!


Just one small point; you weren't put correct. You were put right.
While 'correct'and 'right' are often interchangeable, and the meaning doesn't change, this is an expression in BE, and is always 'right', However, you do indeed 'stand corrected', but never 'correct'. I have never seen or heard 'to stand correct', but think it would refer to posture.

Don't be afraid to be wrong. You learn more. (Me)
NKM
Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015 7:26:19 PM

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Nice touch, Allana!

British English, yes, but it works here in the U.S. too.
Kelvin Yip
Posted: Saturday, March 31, 2018 4:39:41 PM
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The right answer is expert IN (an idiom).
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, April 2, 2018 4:11:36 AM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Kelvin Yip wrote:
The right answer is expert IN (an idiom).

Hello Kelvin.
Welcome to the forum.

Actually, the "right" answer is everything which has been said by NKM and thar above.

Hi David!

My personal usages are these (which seem to agree basically, anyway):
"Expert" can be used as a noun or an adjective, and can be followed by "in", "on" or "at".

He is an expert on building materials. (the noun) He has studied all about materials used for building - he spent ten years at college studying about them, but has probably never built anything.
He is an expert in the subject of building materials. (the noun) He has studied and worked in the field as an advisor to builders for many years.
"In" and "on" are sometimes interchangeable.
He is an expert at building. (the noun) He can build anything - and he can build it correctly.

He is expert in/on the subject of building materials. (the adjective) Concerning the subject of the materials used for building, he knows everything - he is very knowledgeable.
He is expert at building. (the adjective) When he builds things, he does everything correctly, as he knows exactly what should be done and is dexterous enough to do it. He is skilled.

"At" is definitely a skill with knowledge.
"In" and "on" can mean purely knowledge but no skill - but not necessarily.

As NKM noted, there are some phrases which just don't sound quite right, and seem to need "the subject of" or "the action of" or "the use of" - I haven't seen any pattern, but NKM's idea; about the preposition 'connecting with the noun' rather than 'connecting the verb to the noun' in common phrases; sounds like a true one.

EDITED to add: Oops - I just noticed that the original conversation was two weeks ago, while I was away.
Sorry for the late reply.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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