takkk asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 10 months ago

Native English speakers: What's the difference between "downside to" and "downside of"?

Are both expressions below sound natural? If so, is there any difference in meaning?

(a) The downside [to] my job is the long hours.

(b) The downside [of] my job is the long hours.

Are "to" and "of" interchangeable or are there any contexts in which only one of these works?

Thank you. I'd appreciate your feedback.

8 Answers

  • Anonymous
    10 months ago
    Favourite answer

    It is rather a colloquial expression: either version would be OK. If I had to choose, it would be "to" - following the logic that there are two sides to things.

  • Rain
    Lv 7
    9 months ago

    Of usually refers to a connection or belonging to something. To usually refers to a direction.

  • 9 months ago

    I believe they are almost always interchangeable, with only minor tense changes to the sentence.*

    The jester [to] the king is upset.

    The jester [of] the king is upset.

    The staff [of] the CEO are overworked.

    The staff [to] the CEO are overworked.

    These all make sense, but then in the case of:

    I want to go [to] the sea.

    I want to go [of] the sea.

    ... the latter is incorrect.

    'To' and 'of' have the same basic function, they state that the thing proceeding them is linguistically 'owned' by the thing following. The job has ownership of it's downside, the king has ownership of his jester, and the CEO is stated to have ownership of his staff. However, 'to' can also be used to specify a place that something is going, which 'of' cannot, as in the previous comparison. The following is a more subtle example of this:

    The walkway [to] the house is covered in grime. 

    The walkway [of] the house is covered in grime.

    "The walkway [of] the house is covered in grime." specifies that the walkway, that is owned by the house, is covered in grime; which is fine if that's what you meant. (You're presumably implying that the walkway is in the front garden of the house, or otherwise quite close to it, hence it 'belonging to' the house.)

    However, "The walkway [to] the house is covered in grime." could state the same, in which case it's interchangeable, or it could state that the house is the place the walkway is going to. (The walkway could technically be a great distance away, but leading in the direction of the house.)

    In practise, in situations unlike "The downside [to] my job is the long hours.", where your intend in ownership is clear (The 'downside' cannot possibly have the 'job' as a destination.), but rather like "The walkway [to] the house is covered in grime.", in which you could be referring to the house as either 'owning' or 'being the destination of' the proceeding, the two interpretations are still usually going to mean very similar things. Any walkway going to a place could typically thus be considered the place's walkway, and because the walkway in question would also probably be contextually apparent in conversation, it's rather uncommon you would be interpreted to mean two vastly different things with such a statement.

    Still, the additional meaning of 'to', when paired with the following word being a place, can bring up ambiguity when you intend to specify ownership.

    * When typing this, I realised that there is further difference between the two, although since this is something I'm only just realising, I don't really have an explanation for it:

    The ball [of] the dog is round.

    The ball [to] the dog is round.

    Only the former makes sense here, however the latter would make sense phrased as:

    The ball [belonging to] the dog is round.


    The engine [to] the car is broken.

    The engine [of] the car is broken.

    Again, 'of' makes sense, but 'to' doesn't, unless given the same treatment:

    The engine [belonging to] the car is broken.

    As stated before, I've just realised this, so I can't come up with many examples or actually explain why that is, but it should be noted, and possibly explored more of one's own accord.

    In fact, the 'of' in the above sentence is a usage that I don't see any way to change to 'to'. As with the second 'to' in the proceeding sentence, which I can't figure out how to swap either. (The first one could be "... way [of changing it] to 'to'.")

    Okay, there's a lot of differences, so let's assume they're only remotely interchangeable when stating ownership.

    Another thing I can't explain is that I feel like in...

    The downside [to] my job is the long hours. 

    The downside [of] my job is the long hours.

    … 'to' is slightly preferable, whereas in...

    The jester [to] the king is upset. 

    The jester [of] the king is upset. 


    The staff [of] the CEO are overworked. 

    The staff [to] the CEO are overworked.

    … 'of' feels a little bit more correct, but I don't think I can give any actual explanation for the possible difference without properly studying it. Possibly something to do with 'downside' not being a thing that exists of it's own accord, thus needing specified ownership, whereas 'jester' and 'staff' being tangible entities that don't? Not sure.

    Regardless, from somebody who only does standalone study of language, and is probably using incorrect terminology, I hope this has been vaguely helpful.

  • cosmo
    Lv 7
    9 months ago

    Both are OK, same meaning, but it does depend on the dialect.  Idiomatic usage of prepositions varies with regions.  New Yorkers "stand on line", everyone else "stand in line".

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  • Anonymous
    9 months ago

    Both are acceptable. I am always glad to hear someone using the term "downside." Too many people get it mixed up with "downfall". It is incorrect to say, "The downfall of my job is ..." and yet we often hear that these days.

  • Pontus
    Lv 7
    10 months ago

    It's dialectal.  In many, either is ok.  In some, one or the other is the "correct" one.

    I personally would use "to".   I would barely notice if someone used "of" instead.

    Note that unlike many other languages (but not all). English has several formal standards, not one (despite people talking as if there is only one). 

    The UK, Scotland within the UK, Australia, and the USA, at least, all have their own formal standards (some are official; some aren't). 

    They vary in mostly minor ways in pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. 

    Additionally, informal standards are also valid forms of English.  Formal standards have their time and place, but they are not always appropriate. 

  • 10 months ago




  • 10 months ago

    I think they're interchangeable.

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