Difference between sheer and pure

epinephrin

Member
French - France
Hello, I hope my question to be pertinent enough to create this new thread. It might make no trouble for you.
I was pretty sure that many thread should have been made on the question but I've found none.

A genome's sheer bulk can influence the rate of cell division.
I am a pure genius!

May I swap them? Why not?
 
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  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello epinephrin

    The Wordreference dictionary gives four meanings for 'sheer' and nine meanings for 'pure' none of which exactly coincide. Therefore it seems impossible to give a short answer to your question.

    Could you say where your sentences came from? (The first one is grammatically incorrect)
    Could you explain why you think they are similar? (which of the many definitions do you have in mind?)

    Thanks :)
     

    epinephrin

    Member
    French - France
    Hello Biffo, I appreciate your help, I don't understand the sense of sheer in the first sentence and since both words share the meaning "Free of extraneous elements of any kind" like pure gold, pure water may I say that I'm a sheer genius as we say I am a sheer malt? if we were wisky because there is only one meaning in my mind that I have to split in two different ones according to the sentence. Thank you.
     
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    gramman

    Senior Member
    Hi epinephrin

    >>both words share the meaning "Free of extraneous elements of any kind"

    I don't think that's the shared meaning that is relevant here. Pure and sheer are also both used for emphasizing the amount or degree of something. (See Macmillan Dictionary)

    This excerpt from Patterns and Meanings: Using Corpora for English Language Research and Teaching, by Alan Partington (1998), may be useful:
    These observations seem to show that, whereas sheer is used to explain causal relations — something happens because of sheer something (force, persistence, emotion, etc), or something is outstanding due to sheer something — pure is more typically involved in describing a state — an item simply is pure something — which would explain its frequency of occurrence with "be".
    A genome's bulk causes something to happen — it influences the rate of cell division. Thus, sheer is more appropriate. Genius, on the other hand, is a state being described, and therefore collocates better with pure.
     
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