comment vs. commentary

Discussion in 'English Only' started by annettehola, Nov 4, 2005.

  1. annettehola Banned


    Who thinks there is a difference between "comment" and "commentary"? And WHY and, therefore, in WHAT does it consist?

    Thanks a million,

  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Who thinks there is a difference between "comment" and "commentary"?
    I do:)

    And WHY
    Because they have distinctly different meanings.

    and, therefore, in WHAT does it consist?
    A comment is, typically, a short statement.
    A commentary could be a lengthy dissertation on something or a spoken explanation of an event.

    In both cases, there are alternative definitions and explanations.
  3. Most definitely a difference, as panjundum said.

    Here are a couple of examples:

    She made a comment about my shoes
    She always gives a running commentary on how people are dressed.

    Your comments are welcome.
    Listen to the commentary while you visit the museum.

    Also, and here I am doubting my own knowledge of my mother tongue, "commentated" (which would be different from "commented on)

    He commentated the evening's event.

    And, of course, a "commentator" is the person who does the commentray of an event, like a sports commentator (NOT "Commentor)

    Good question, I can see where it would be confusing... Even I am a little confused by my own comments and commentary... Which makes me think, sometimes the two words do mean basically the same thing.

    Help? :))

  4. annettehola Banned

    - says Panjandrum.

    This to me represents a contradiction.

    What furthermore confuses, is the definition in the WR dictionary.

    comment, commentary
    a written explanation or criticism or illustration that is added to a book or other textual material; "he wrote an extended comment on the proposal"

    I now think, a comment is a spoken statement and a commentary is a written one. But when it all comes down to it I think they can be used interchangeably.

    Anybody else who wants to comment on this?

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2015
  5. There is also a subtle difference between comment and comments, where comments CAN (but does not necessarily) mean the same thing as "commentary".

    But, I'm sorry to have to tell ya': No, :( , the words are not completely interchangeable (although people will probably understand what you are trying to say from the context and subject matter). The differences between all these words based on "comment" are subtle, I guess it's just something you learn as your language skills advance and you begin to master the language.

    Oh, and no, the difference between the two has nothing to do with whether it is written or spoken. A comment can also be something your professor writes on your term paper, and a commentary can also be (and often is) spoken...

    Anyone else have any comments about this?

  6. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    A comment, as has been noted above, is usuaully a brief remark, either spoken or written. It is usually "casual" in its tone, although can be either neutral, or severely praising or critical.

    In a sense, "comment" is another way for "said," although it imbues that some type of opinion or personal remark is given. It is more "off the cuff" and "sponteneous."

    "Oh, looks like another sunny day," she commented. This was a short, casual remark.

    My father commented that he was not in agreement with Bush's new choice for Supreme Court Justice. He gave a short, curt opinion.

    My professor asked me to comment on the passage from the book we had just read. She asked me to give a short, off-the-cuff statement about what I thought regarding the book's passage.

    commentary, at least in my experience, tends to be more formal in its tone and sense of opinion. When you are giving a commentary on something, you are giving a running critique and/or opinion. It is not a casual observation, but rather a more formalized sense of organized thought.

    "I hate going to my friend Janet's dinner parties because she always has to give a running commentary on her children's latest accomplishments." Even though her speech was more or less off-the-cuff, nonetheless, Janet has put much thought into her children's accomplishments. Note the use of commentary here is somewhat sarcastic.

    I often watch xxxxx News for its excellent political commentary.

    My professor has asked me to give a commentary on the book we just read in class next week.
    In this case, I know that I am expected to provide a formal speech that can be either brief or long, depending on what my professor requests.

    I agree overall that the differences are subtle, but to many natives there is a distinction.
  7. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    It's probably easiest if you think of a comment as being one sentence, containing one idea, in response to one thing that you read or see or hear or experience, etc.

    A commentary is a bit like a collection of comments, although they have to be connected and organised to be called a commentary, otherwise they're just a collection of comments. A commentary consists of several--usually many--sentences, containing several ideas, in response to a series or progression of things, or to a single complex thing.

    The sentences that make up a commentary are either connected logically, having only one theme (although many ideas within that theme), or else they are all refer to the same thing (or series of things).

    A comment is a remark, therefore:
    - 'I like you're new shoes!'
    - 'I didn't think much of that film.'
    - 'This paragraph needs improving.'
    Bosses and teachers tend to make comments in the margin when you hand in a report. Each comment reacts to a single idea in your text and offers a mini assessment.

    A commentary is an exposé, therefore, or a narration:
    - An essay analysing a Shakespeare sonnet line by line.
    - What you hear when you listen to a sport's match on the radio.
    - Badgrammar's audio guide in a museum.
    Commentaries are also a reaction, but often an analysis too. They tend to unfold over time, often simultaneously to what they are describing (the sports commentary, the museum guide, the line-by-line development of 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?').

    EDIT: I think GenJen's and badgrammar's examples that use 'running commentary' are in fact metaphors that blur the distinction a little. When you say that something is a 'running commentary', you're saying that the person's comments are so extended (and usually critical) that they have become a commentary. The expression is a criticism of verbosity and interference: the person's not content just to say that they don't like the way you dress (= comment), they procede with an item-by-item analysis of why the clothes you're wearing are unsuitable (= commentary).

    Second EDIT: I don't like WR's first definition of comment, the one you quote. Definition 2 is much better (comment, remark).
  8. annettehola Banned

    HOW HELPFUL, GenJen54 and Aupick.
    You have explained it with total clarity.
    Thank you very much.
    You have made me understand it.
  9. Yes, bravo, very good explanations from both of you!
  10. SoudainTresLoin Member

    Is there absolutely no difference between a comment and a commentary? Or would you use each one in a very precise context?
  11. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    Hello, there's a thread with the same topic in WR dictionary. I think you'll find it helpful (I just checked it. It's very nice:))
  12. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Today's question has been popped onto the end of the previous thread.
  13. Sun14

    Sun14 Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    I've never seen people use a object directly following comment? Would you tell me the difference between: comment and comment on?
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm not sure what you mean.
    Apart from a very specialised use of 'comment' in the world of computer programming, the only use of transitive 'comment' I can think of is when a clause follows 'comment' as object:
    Sitting on the train yesterday my grandson commented 'That lady's ears are very long.'
    An alternative way to tell of my train journey:
    Sitting on the train yesterday my grandson commented on the long ears of the lady sitting in front of him.
  15. Sun14

    Sun14 Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Thank you very much. You get my question.

    I mean I've never seen a person use common take an object directly without a preposition.
  16. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    That's right. In ordinary use, it's either:

    - comment that + a clause (indirect speech)
    - comment + direct speech
    comment on + noun or noun clause
  17. Sun14

    Sun14 Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Got it. Thank you very much.

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