Discussion:
Use of "definite"
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Pamela
2021-04-03 19:19:21 UTC
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I prefer the first phrase below but is the second incorrect?

(1) His health is definitely in decline.

(2) His health is in definite decline.
Stefan Ram
2021-04-03 19:50:38 UTC
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Post by Pamela
I prefer the first phrase below but is the second incorrect?
(1) His health is definitely in decline.
(2) His health is in definite decline.
"Definite" here means "indisputable; certain" (it also could
mean "obvious"), and the second phrase is not incorrect.

"Definite" avoids "arguable", which I always find ambiguous
(is it "open to argument" or "defensible in argument"?).

|a definite answer / advantage / pattern / conclusion / impact
|/ possibility / victory / "yes" / "no" / connection / improvement

"definite no" = "never"

Frequency rank: 6887
Chrysi Cat
2021-04-04 15:38:14 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
Post by Pamela
I prefer the first phrase below but is the second incorrect?
(1) His health is definitely in decline.
(2) His health is in definite decline.
"Definite" here means "indisputable; certain" (it also could
mean "obvious"), and the second phrase is not incorrect.
Although I agree with your strict interpretation, hasn't example (2)
become so commonplace that it's acceptable and readers will infer what
was intended?
I am reminded of "only" whose placement is so often incorrect that it
hardly matters any more.
You may wish to re-read Stefan's sentence.

Although now that I look at the combination of the sentence and who said
it, the double negative MAY have been intended as an emphatic and not as
a negation of the single negative, since English is seemingly the only
language that supports negation of a negative.
--
Chrysi Cat
1/2 anthrocat, nearly 1/2 anthrofox, all magical
Transgoddess, quick to anger. [she/her. Misgender and die].
Call me Chrysi or call me Kat, I'll respond to either!
Quinn C
2021-04-06 00:59:55 UTC
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Post by Chrysi Cat
Post by Stefan Ram
"Definite" here means "indisputable; certain" (it also could
mean "obvious"), and the second phrase is not incorrect.
Although now that I look at the combination of the sentence and who said
it, the double negative MAY have been intended as an emphatic and not as
a negation of the single negative, since English is seemingly the only
language that supports negation of a negative.
No, German works pretty much the same: double negative = positive in
formal register, but emphatic negative in many dialects and some
colloquial speech.

Even down to details: I'd read "not incorrect" as a less solid
endorsement than "correct" in English, and likewise the parallel
constructions in German. And this construction can indicate either
hesitation or (in different examples than this) just understatement.
--
The seeds of new thought, sown in a ground that isn't prepared
to receive them, don't bear fruit.
-- Hedwig Dohm (1874), my translation
Ross Clark
2021-04-04 21:11:48 UTC
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Post by Pamela
I prefer the first phrase below but is the second incorrect?
(1) His health is definitely in decline.
(2) His health is in definite decline.
Tolerable, but not too good because "in decline" is kind of an idiom or
fixed phrase which shouldn't be intruded on. You could certainly say

There was a definite decline in his health.
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