Gauss from germany asks:
I am completely confused by the following relationship terms. Would you please give me a precise explanation and some proper examples? Are they the same or similar in meaning and in use?
1. in relation to / with relation to
2. with regard to / regarding
3. in connection with
They are very similar in meaning and use. The key issue, as you suggest, is to know when and how to use them.
These expressions are sometimes known as 'discourse markers'. 'Discourse' is the term used to denote pieces of speech or writing that are longer than a sentence. They are 'markers' because they help to point out the structure of discourse. They make clear the connection between what we are going to say and what has come earlier. They are used to focus attention and to signal what we are going to talk about.
Such discourse markers will often be found at the beginning of a sentence. They are all fairly formal in tone and characteristic of formal or written discourse.
For an example, let us eavesdrop on this business meeting. The personnel manager of a company is responding to questions from members of staff.
- 'There are two major issues on today's agenda which we should move on to before lunch. One is the question of non-taxable allowances and the other is bonus or productivity payments. Now, with regard to/in connection with/concerning the former, the position of this organisation is quite clear...'
You could also add 'with reference to' as a further alternative and this would perhaps be most formal of all. This expression is frequently used at the beginning of business letters:
- 'Dear Ms Irvine, With reference to your fax of yesterday, I am pleased to inform you that...'
Note that expressions like as far as... is/am/are concerned and as regards link discourse in a similar way, but these are slightly less formal and more characteristic of spoken discourse:
- 'There is no doubt that in this country infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and diphtheria are on the increase, but as far as whooping cough is concerned / as regards whooping cough, there are clear signs that it is on the wane.'
- 'As far as we were concerned, there was no point in remaining at the site any longer.'
- 'As far as I'm concerned, you can go to Italy for Christmas. I shall be quite happy here at home.'
A final note about use of concerning. When placed later in a sentence, it is sometimes used as an alternative to about or regarding:
- 'He refused to answer any questions concerning his private life.'
- 'There was much discussion in Parliament concerning the admission of homosexuals to the armed forces.'