The Difference: In accordance with vs. According to

These phrases do not have the same meaning. Please review their use below.

In accordance with (a law/regulation/contract/etc.)


This phrase is used to mean “in agreement with“. It means that a rule or idea conforms with, agrees with, or is compatible with something else (e.g. a law, regulation, or someone’s desires).  This phrase is usually used in formal or legal English. Here are some examples:

  • The company’s policies are in accordance with federal regulations.
  • In accordance with local labour laws, full-time employees who work on holidays will be paid extra.
  • All animals were cared for in accordance with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
  • In accordance with tradition, Jane wore a white dress at her wedding.

In accordance with regulations

Companies operate in accordance with regulations, rules, laws, policies, etc.

According to + (a source of information)


Use according to to state a source of information. In other words, according to tells you where a statement/idea comes from. It tells you the origin of some information.

  • According to my father, I cried a lot when I was a baby. (Your father is the origin/source of this information).
  • It’s going to rain later this evening according to the weather forecast. (The forecast is the source).
  • According to the Bible, Jesus turned water into wine.

Hint: When you use ‘according to’, you can make the same sentence with the verb ‘say’.

  • According to the Bible, Jesus turned water into wine. = The bible said Jesus turned water into wine.
  • It’s going to rain later this evening according to the weather forecast. = The weather forecast said it’s going to rain.

A Comparison: In accordance with and According To

Here are two examples to better show the difference.

  1. ____________________ her doctor, Jean should exercise every day.
  2. ____________________ her doctor’s recommendations, Jean exercises every day now.

In #1, the noun ‘doctor’ is the source of the statement ‘Jean should exercise every day.’ The doctor said this. The sentence, in other words, is “The doctor said Jean should exercise every day.” This has the same meaning. Therefore, the answer is “According to”

In #2, the noun ‘recommendations’ is not the source of the statement “Jean exercises every day now.” The recommendations did not say “Jean exercises every day now.” The recommendations recommended that Jean exercise every day. Here, Jean’s action (exercising every day) agrees with the recommendations. Her action is in accordance with her doctor’s recommendations.

  1. According to her doctor, Jean should exercise every day.
  2. In accordance with her doctor’s recommendations, Jean exercises every day now.

Here’s another example that’s a bit more difficult.

____________________ the work schedule, let’s meet on March 2nd.

Let’s look at the main clause, “let’s meet on March 2nd”. Is this something the schedule would say? No. The schedule would include plans, but the phrase “Let’s meet on March 2nd” is a suggestion made by a person. Also, can we say,

“The schedule said let’s meet again next Tuesday” ? No.

The schedule didn’t say it. You suggested it. So we cannot use according to. However, if the schedule has a plan that states ‘meet on March 2nd’, then the suggestion of meeting on March 2nd would agree with the schedule. It would be in accordance with the schedule.

In accordance with the work schedule, let’s meet on March 2nd.

When Both Phrases Are Possible

Sometimes, either phrase can be used, and there is only a slight difference in meaning.

According to the law, cyclists must wear a helmet. (A cyclist is someone who rides a bicycle)

= The law says cyclists must wear a helmet. (The focus here is that the law is the source of information.)

In accordance with the law, cyclists must wear a helmet.

= The fact that cyclists must wear a helmet agrees with the law. (The focus here is that wearing a helmet agrees with/conforms to the law).

Both sentences are possible, but their focus/meaning is a little different.

Common Mistake: According to me

According to me, it’s a good idea.

We don’t use ‘according to me’, ever. Instead, use ‘In my opinion/I think/From my point of view/etc.’


Let’s try some exercises to see if you understand. In the exercises, only one answer will be possible.

Quiz: According to / In Accordance with

  1.  the news, there was a fire last night.
  2. At every concert, the musician changes her music slightly  the mood of the audience.
  3.  the security camera video, two women broke into the building at 3 a.m.
  4.  One third of American children are overweight  a survey taken in 2014.
  5.  the survey’s instructions, Jane wrote her name in capital letters.
  6. The researchers were happy to find that their results were  the results of a previous study done in 2016.
  7. The phrases ‘according to’ and ‘in accordance with’ are used differently  to this webpage.
Show Answers and Explanation
  1. According to — the news said there was a fire last night; it’s the source of the information.
  2. in accordance with — she changes her music so it conforms to the audience’s mood. Their mood didn’t say anything.
  3. According to — the video is the source of this information (in a way, the video ‘said’ this).
  4. according to — this is what the survey said. It is not a law or rule of the survey.
  5. In accordance with — she followed the instructions; writing her name in capitals agrees with the instructions.
  6. in accordance with — their results agreed with previous results. This made them happy.
  7. according to — this webpage says that the phrases are used differently.

 

That’s all. If you find a mistake or have a question,  please leave a comment below.

— Copyright Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com 

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