ameliorate/amend this situation

redgiant

Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Example:
Probably sending a note to the wife saying, "I don't know how you do it, but I understand you are willing to sleep with Reginald even though I find him repulsive," will not ameliorate this situation.

Source: Despicable Me

Background:A woman just came out of a relationship. At a company sponsored dinner, one of her colleagues jokingly suggested setting her up with a guy in the office who wasn't very attractive. The woman made a rude remark saying she doubted any woman would sleep with him. Another woman, who had been sitting at the end of the table and remained silent for the entire conversation, gave her a strange look and left in a huff. She later found out that the woman was the ugly guy's wife. She was mortified for accidentally insulting the couple so she wrote this letter seeking help from an advice columnist. The quoted text above is from the columnist's response.

Hi native speakers,
Does "amend this situation" mean more or less the same as "ameliorate this situation"?
 
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  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Not really.

    Amend means to make minor changes. It is usually applied to wording of a document, but can apply to other things.

    Ameliorate also means to make changes, but those changes may be major or minor and they are designed to make a bad situation better, but with little hope of making the situation really good. Just to lessen the bad aspects to improve the situation.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Let's wait for additional replies. I believe my statement is correct. We also "amend" soil to improve the fertility of the soil, but clearly that does not apply here. So I will stick with "amend" being used primarily to discuss language, usually in minor ways.

    Ameliorate applies to a wider range of topics and with little hope of achieving a status of "good" or better. With hopes of being "less bad".
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you very much Packard.

    I'd rather defer to native speakers on English. Dictionaries often give nuance-less definitions and thus a sketchy idea of the word's meaning. Simply quoting the definition of amend doesn't really help your argument against what Packard's explained.
     
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    chfattouma

    Senior Member
    Tunisian Arabic
    Hi Packard,
    I'm just pointing out that one of the definitions of 'amen' is 'to improve' or 'change for the better' which are synonyms to 'ameliorate'.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Hi Packard,
    I'm just pointing out that one of the definitions of 'amen' is 'to improve' or 'change for the better' which are synonyms to 'ameliorate'.
    There are nuances of difference in meaning. I could say, "I suggest you amend your behavior to ameliorate the situation." The words are simply used in different situations.

    Maybe one of the other members can expand on this.
     

    chfattouma

    Senior Member
    Tunisian Arabic
    I get your point, Packard. This interesting to know.:)Thank youN.B. I didn't say that "amend" can be a substitute for "ameliorate" in the example above. I was just saying that the former does not only mean "make minor changes" but these also "to improve". I understand that two lexical items may be similar in meaning but not necessarily interchangeable; a lexical item can be used in general contexts while the other is restricted to relatively specific ones. Like for example "aputate" and "cut off". While it is correct to say "He had is leg cut off after the accident" or "He had his leg amputated after the accident.", the two verbs are not interchangeable in the following example:
    "Another rifleman had bartered some of his Red Cross parcel for a loaf of bread; ‘The conditions of living and surviving had made us all as cunning as foxes’, so this rifleman that night slept with it under his neck, but someone crept up and cut off / amputated both the ends."
    The British National Corpus
     
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