difference in usage: compel vs oblige

valdemar

Senior Member
Español mexicano
I've been trying to understand how to use the words compel and oblige. "You may compel someone to do something" is not the same as " you may oblige someone to do something" accordingly. If I'm wrong, might you explain me please?. I understand the meaning of "compel" as something pretty similar to "force", except that using "compel" you are free to choose if do it or not, and using "force" you have no choice and you have to do it. In this case if I wanted to use "oblige" I ought to write something like "someone may be oblige to do something". Is that so? If it is so, would you so kind to explain me the meaning of " you may oblige someone to do something" (It sound to me like you may help someone to do something, but I'm not sure). Finally if you might corret my writing it would be great. I would do the same for you. Thank you so much.
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is tricky, Valdemar.

    Clearly there are many ways of obliging people to do things, from moral blackmail to physical threats. When the physical threats become dire, you are compelling someone rather than obliging them to do whatever it is.

    Oblige sound politer than compel. If you are compelled to do something, I don't know that you have as much choice as you seem to suggest.
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    Valdemar, I disagree that there is much of a difference between "forcing" someone to do something and "compelling" him to.

    However, I see a marked difference between "compel" and "oblige". If I borrow money from someone then I am obliged to repay it, but I am not compelled to repay it unless he wins a legal judgement against me or uses other methods of coercion.

    Again, I have a legal obligation to obey the road-rules while driving, but I am not compelled to do, and may cheerfully drive above the speed-limit if I am in a hurry.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Welcome to the forum, Valdemar!

    Compel is to force; oblige is gentler. Try looking up the two words in the forum dictionary (see the top of the page) and see if that clarifies the issue for you. There are also links there to other dictionaries where you may find examples of usage. If you're still puzzled, let us know what isn't clear.
     

    valdemar

    Senior Member
    Español mexicano
    Valdemar, I disagree that there is much of a difference between "forcing" someone to do something and "compelling" him to.

    However, I see a marked difference between "compel" and "oblige". If I borrow money from someone then I am obliged to repay it, but I am not compelled to repay it unless he wins a legal judgement against me or uses other methods of coercion.

    Again, I have a legal obligation to obey the road-rules while driving, but I am not compelled to do, and may cheerfully drive above the speed-limit if I am in a hurry.



    Ok. so in the question "is a married woman obliged/compel to have intercourse? (I know the answer of course depends on your standpoint) if I use "oblige" it would be meaning that the married woman has to, maybe because it is supposed that every couple does, although legally she has the right to say no whenever she wants. In this case she is obliged but is not compel to do it. (According with your explanation) If I use "compel" souns like even when she might say no, if his partner wants, there is nothing wrong if he does. I'm I wright?. Now, I´ve heard things like "much obliged", " am I much obliged", etc, and I cannot find any conection with its meaning. Might you please explain me this? Thank you very much.
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    If a married woman is "compelled" to have sexual intercourse then that is tantamount to rape.

    She might well be "obliged", however, to engage in it, at least occasionally, in accordance with the terms of the marriage agreement. If she refuses then (in Western jurisdictions) she cannot legally be compelled to co-operate, but her refusal indefinitely will generally be accepted as grounds for divorce - unless perhaps there are mitigating circumstances such as ill health.

    The term "much obliged" is just a formal way of saying "thank you".
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Can you please explain the difference between "compel" and "have to'?
    "Mr. Gorlin is a teacher who does not have to compel me to behave"
    (504 Essential words)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Can you please explain the difference between "compel" and "have to'?
    "Mr. Gorlin is a teacher who does not have to compel me to behave"
    (504 Essential words)
    It's not clear what you're asking. What would the other sentence be?
    "Mr. Gorlin is a teacher who does not have to have to me to behave." :cross:
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    It's not clear what you're asking. What would the other sentence be?
    "Mr. Gorlin is a teacher who does not have to have to me to behave." :cross:
    The other sentence is:
    "Mr. Gorlin is a teacher who does not compel have to me to behave."
     

    grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    If you have to do something, it's necessary for you to do it.
    If you compel somebody to do something, you force them to do it.

    Are you by any chancing translating those words literally into Farsi? You should look for their equivalents in your native language, and not for their literal counterparts.
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Are you by any chancing translating those words literally into Farsi? You should look for their equivalents in your native language, and not for their literal counterparts.
    Yes :)
    Is "compel" transitive unlike "have to"?
     

    XInTheDark

    New Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    My answer is that oblige refers to 'compulsory under the law' while compel is just 'forced to do'.
    Definition from Vocabulary.com:
    "To oblige is to do something you have to, because you're bound by either good manners or the law."
     
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