defer vs postpone

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GandalfMB

Senior Member
Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
Hello,
What in your opinion is the difference between: "Can we postpone/defer making a decision until next week?" and "Our exam's been deferred/postponed until Monday"? I don't think I'd use defer in the second sentence, but I can't think of a reason. I think we can postpone events, but I am not sure whether or not we can defer them. What are the major differences between them? I referred to a few different dictionaries, but their definitions are very, very similar.


Thank you.
 
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There's a great deal of overlap in their meanings. I generally use postpone when there is a time at which the postponed activity will take place, defer if some non-time-related condition must be met in order for the deferred activity can take place. For example:

    "Let's postpone this decision until Monday."

    "Let's defer this decision until Chris can join in the discussion."

    I'm not sure that's an official rule, though. It may be just my usage.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    There's a great deal of overlap in their meanings. I generally use postpone when there is a time at which the postponed activity will take place, defer if some non-time-related condition must be met in order for the deferred activity can take place. For example:

    "Let's postpone this decision until Monday."

    "Let's defer this decision until Chris can join in the discussion."

    I'm not sure that's an official rule, though. It may be just my usage.
    Interesting. :) Would postpone work in your second sentence?
    Thank you, Egmont.
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    1) Because John is sick and I need to discuss with him, can I "defer to" or "postpone to" give you the answer?
    2) Because the weather is bad this week, can I "defer our picnic " or "postpone our picnic" to next week?


    Are they both correct? If so, which is better in thos situation?Thank you.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I don't know if I've thought about the distinction before, but I agree with Egmont's rule in your 2).

    Because the weather is bad this week can I postpone our picnic to next week? (Better: Because the weather is bad this week should we postpone our picnic to next week?)

    In sentence 1, I do like defer better.

    Because John is sick and I need to discuss this with him, can I defer giving you an answer until later?
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    I don't know if I've thought about the distinction before, but I agree with Egmont's rule in your 2).

    Because the weather is bad this week can I postpone our picnic to next week? (Better: Because the weather is bad this week should we postpone our picnic to next week?)

    In sentence 1, I do like defer better.

    Because John is sick and I need to discuss this with him, can I defer giving you an answer until later?
    Thank you kentix. Additionally, what's the point of using "can I defer giving you an answer?" rather than "can I give you an answer later?"?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    There's no point. It's just a different way to say it. Your second option sounds much more common and natural and what I would generally expect to hear. The first way sounds more formal.
     

    jokaec

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Hong Kong
    There's no point. It's just a different way to say it. Your second option sounds much more common and natural and what I would generally expect to hear. The first way sounds more formal.
    Thank you for answering from your experience.:thumbsup:
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    For me, generally, I would use postpone wherever possible except for more formal statements. Justice deferred is justice denied. The saying wouldn't have much ring to it if you used postponed instead.

    More frequently I would use defer for the "yield" meaning: I defer to your greater wisdom and judgment.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    Hello everyone. It has been a while since I posted this thread. Can't we also use "postpone" in this sentence "Because John is sick and I need to discuss this with him, can I defer giving you an answer until later?" I assume it would be understood by a lot of people. What do you think?
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Speaking in AE terms, postpone there is fine. But I think it would sound a little more natural like this:

    It was an unpopular decision to postpone the building of the new hospital.

    And even more like this:

    It was an unpopular decision to postpone (the) construction of the new hospital.
     
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