What’s the right preposition to use with “right” and “rights”?

Learners of Legal English are often stumped when it comes to deciding which preposition to use in a given expression. Indeed, prepositions pose a stumbling block in many languages, and English is no exception, whether used with nouns, in prepositional phrases or appended to phrasal verbs. This week one of the students in my Legal English course asked me which preposition is used with the noun “right” (or “rights).” Most expressions require “of,” “to” or sometimes “in.” Here are some of the most common (some have two possible options):

Expressions with “OF”:

  • right of assembly (also: freedom of assembly) (derecho de reunion; libertad de reunión)
  • right of asylum (derecho de asilo)
  • right of association (also: freedom of assembly) (derecho de asociación; libertad de asociación)
  • right of establishment (derecho de establecimiento)
  • right of first refusal (derecho de tanteo)
  • right of good reputation (derecho al honor)
  • right of privacy (derecho a la intimidad)
  • right of publicity (also: publicity rights) (derecho a la propia imagen)
  • right of sufferage (derecho de sufragio)
  • right of way (derecho de paso; servidumbre de paso)

Expressions with “TO”:

  • right to counsel (derecho a la asistencia letrada)
  • right to demonstrate (libertad de manifestación)
  • right to due process (derecho a la tutela judicial efectiva)
  • right to hold public office (derecho de acceso a los cargos públicos)
  • right to life (derecho a la vida)
  • right to own property (derecho de propiedad)
  • right to privacy (derecho a la intimidad)
  • right to stand for election (derecho de sufragio pasivo)
  • right to unionize (libertad sindical)
  • right to strike (derecho a la huelga)
  • right to vote (derecho de sufragio activo)
  • right to vote and stand for election (derecho de sufragio)
  • right to work (derecho al trabajo)

Expressions with “IN”:

  • rights in property (derechos reales)
  • rights in patents (derechos sobre patentes)
  • rights in trademarks (derechos sobre marcas), etc.

(One holds rights IN property, a use most often found in the context of intellectual property, and which may actually sound unnatural to nonlawyer native speakers of English).