Difference between sheer and pure

Discussion in 'English Only' started by epinephrin, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. 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?
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  2. 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 :)
  3. 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.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  4. gramman

    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:
    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.
  5. adurana New Member

    British English
    hmm interesting. whatsoever thanks for clarifying Sheer with Pure
  6. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>interesting … thanks for clarifying

    Thanks should go to Professor Partington and his colleagues at the University of Bologna for all that extensive research. This publication is available through Amazon for less than $40 (US). It's reviewed on pp. 24-27 of the September 2001 edition of Language Learning & Technology.

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