# chance vs risk vs probability

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#### drcureklibatur

##### New Member
hi everyone,

i searched the forum threads but couldn't find a specific one about this issue. i'm a turkish native and in turkish we have the following logic when using chance, risk and propability:

* if you are talking about a positive event, you can use chance. eg: you have 1% chance to win this lottery.
* for negative terms, you should use risk: the risk of suffering from lung cancer is 2% in turkey.
* you can use probability for either negative and positive notions.

there is a twitter account called überfacts on twitter. it gives some surprising info about life. it always use the term "chance" for negative terms as "5% of british people have a chance of facing hearth attack before age 40". i warned it several times claiming that logically such usage should be wrong. however, i also saw this sort of usage in the british newspaper, the independent. after that i seached the internet and couldn't find a fulfilling explanation about this dilemma.

is there anyone out there who has a reasonable explanation about why using "chance" is possible in negative contexts?

• #### Thomas Tompion

##### Senior Member
It's true that we most often use chance to indicate a positive opportunity, but we do also use it in a negative sense.

Here's an example from the BNC (British Corpus): In those patients with shingles on the face, there is a chance of the infection spreading to the eye.

#### Egmont

##### Senior Member
We do not make a similar distinction between chance and probability in English. Chance is simply an informal term for probability, with less implication that it was calculated mathematically. I could say I have a one-in-one-million chance of winning the lottery (a positive outcome). I could also say that I have the same chance of being hit by a bus later today (a negative outcome).

Risk does refer, almost always, to a negative outcome. When an outcome is negative, it can usually be used interchangeably with chance.

(Cross-posted.)

#### priyaspageo

##### New Member
Risk is the potential of losing something of value.
ex -How to take a risk your healths.
Probability provides information about the likelihood that something will happen.
Ex-
One common measure is the probability of developing cancer.
Chance a possibility of something happening.
Ex-They found that social cues did increase the probability that someone would give a song a chance.

#### drcureklibatur

##### New Member
The term "chance" has positive connotations and meaning in Turkish. However, as far as I understood from others' above comments, it is not the case for its English counterpart. In English, the term "chance" seems to have a more "neutral" meaning.

So, while using the term "chance" for negative consequences in Turkish is not allowed, this is not the case in English.

I should note for those leaving comments that the information you provided would be highly appreciated. Thanks a lot.

#### Blondina

##### New Member
How interesting! Thank you for asking this question, found it when Googling. The situation is the same in Swedish with risk only referring to negatives and chance to positives and I assumed the "situation" to be the same in English but have come to realize that it is not- and now confirmed, thanks again.

"The term "chance" has positive connotations and meaning in Turkish. However, as far as I understood from others' above comments, it is not the case for its English counterpart. In English, the term "chance" seems to have a more "neutral" meaning.

So, while using the term "chance" for negative consequences in Turkish is not allowed, this is not the case in English.

I should note for those leaving comments that the information you provided would be highly appreciated. Thanks a lot."

#### Keith Bradford

##### Senior Member
Personally, I try to observe the three-part distinction that the OP describes, and so I think do French speakers. But who are we against a flood of sloppy thinkers who think that logic is the name of a Maryland rapper?

#### Silver_Biscuit

##### Senior Member
Personally, I try to observe the three-part distinction that the OP describes, and so I think do French speakers. But who are we against a flood of sloppy thinkers who think that logic is the name of a Maryland rapper?
How is it sloppy thinking to use chance for negative occurrences? It's consistent with the meaning of the word, the dictionary definition as well as the way in which the word is used by real speakers. What's more, this is not some new development - chance has never been a purely positive thing. Applying false distinctions is a waste of time. If someone 'takes a chance', in many contexts we understand that as to mean that the outcome could be good or bad, just like 'taking a risk'. 'Chancy' is a synonym of 'risky'. There is no situation I can think of where 'risk' can't be changed to 'chance', although the opposite is not true.

#### Blondina

##### New Member
Probability would be more distanced from lay language towards scientific language and usualy with a quantitative measure attached, I suppose.

#### Blondina

##### New Member
Just important to be aware for the emajority of us who would need to translate our (scientific) texts into english to communicate that terms that seem the same nor always are in different languages. Causes for misunderstanding.

#### e2efour

##### Senior Member
hi everyone,

* for negative terms, you should use risk: the risk of suffering from lung cancer is 2% in turkey.

is there anyone out there who has a reasonable explanation about why using "chance" is possible in negative contexts?
Because you can always use chance when talking about a risk, as pointed out in #2. In any case, by using % you are expressing the probability of the outcome.

But please use capital letters, e.g. for British and Turkey and at the beginning of sentences.

#### Blondina

##### New Member
It's just the way it is- English is regarding this issue a less precise language than others - which is unfortunate since most scientific texts are written in English. And yes then the english language has the peculiarity of capitalizing languages...

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