In this blog post, we will be looking at two phrasal verbs that are especially annoying: consist in and consist of. A quick online search will show that the latter is more commonly used. It will probably also show you some sentences where it is being misused. Apparently, not everyone agrees with the difference and it seems “consist in” might vanish some decades from now. I hope that is not its fate though for I feel some depth will be lost.
We will be looking at the difference between the two below but if you are learning or teaching English, you can also find downloadable educational resources with some exercises on this topic at up2dateSKILLS online stores: up2 and TPT.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on the topic and an example sentence in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
Phrasal verbs in English can be extremely confusing. Because the verb repeats itself, phrasal verbs are likely to look similar to English learners. However, the meaning of the verb is often completely lost when it is being used as a phrasal verb. To make things worse, some phrasal verbs have multiple meanings.
In order to understand the meaning of most phrasal verbs, the words that compose them (verb + preposition/adverb) can’t be translated separately, and have to be learned together as if they were any other compound word. In addition, phrasal verbs become even easier when you start using example sentences to learn them.
"Consist of" vs. "consist in"
= to be composed of; to be made up of
Use “consist of” to mention the parts that compose something, i.e. its components, pieces, members, ingredients, etc.
This syrup consists of sugar and water.
The crowd consisted mainly of teenage girls.
= is based in; to reside in; to lie in; to be expressed by; to have as its essence
Use “consist in” for definitions and attributes, mostly to explain how something works.
Tolerance consists in respecting other people’s opinions. (= has in its essence)
The beauty of the city consists in its magnificent buildings. (=resides in/lies in)
Printable worksheet for grammar practice
- help box explaining the difference between consist in and consist of with example sentences
- gap-filling exercise (34 sentences)
- Worksheet (normal PDF file)
- Worksheet (fillable PDF)
- Answer key