difference in using "is punished by" <> "punishable by

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Bigtime

Senior Member
Arabic
I wrote:


1. A crime is punished by law.
2. A crime is punishable by law.


Is there a difference in using "is punished by" <> "punishable by"?

Thanks.
 
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    A crime is not punishable by law, it is punishable by a penalty, e.g. imprisonment, fine, execution etc.

    We say punishable because there is no guarantee that a criminal will be caught. If he is caught, there is no guarantee that he will be convicted. If he is convicted he may not receive the full punishment.

    Example

    In some countries murder is punishable by death but, if there are extenuating circumstances, the actual punishment may instead be imprisonment. However in other countries murder is invariably punished by death provided the criminal is caught.
     
    Last edited:

    JJohnson

    Senior Member
    Texan English
    A crime is punishable by law.
    A crime cannot be punished. A criminal may be punished, if he is found guilty.
    If one commits a crime, the law is ABLE to punish the criminal. The crime is punishable. The criminal is punished.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is reasonable to use the verb 'punish' with the noun 'crime' and also with the names of specific crimes, such as theft, rape, murder, etc. These crimes are both punishable and punished by law.

    What is the purpose of the original question?
    Is there a difference in using "is punished by" <> "punishable by"?
    Are you asking about the difference between 'punished' and 'punishable'?
    If so, we need to know what context your sentence is from. What is the preceding sentence?

    The two words can be equivalent in some contexts, but are usually different in meaning.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There seem to me to be one or two separate issues here:

    1. Can one punish a crime? Obviously not, but we do say things like His absence without leave was punished by three days confined to barracks. In other words, we do sometimes, and not that loosely, talk of the crimes being punished rather than the crimnal.

    2. When might we say that a crime is punishable by law rather than a crime is punished by law? When we wish to remind people that committing a crime makes one liable for punishment, rather than that punishment is inevitable.

    So I think one can say both that a crime is punishable by law and that it is punished by law.

    A general and simple explanation of the way the criminal law operates might include a sentence such as a crime is punished by law. A more sophisticated and sensitive explanation would be more likely to say a crime is punishable by law.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    ...Is there a difference in using "is punished by" <> "punishable by"?
    ...
    I think some of the discussion is arriving through lack of context. We are getting distracted by whether it is possible to punish a crime (by law or otherwise).

    I'll restrict myself here to the basic question.

    'is punished' tells you what happens, e.g.
    In most homes, if a child is naughty he or she is punished.

    'is punishable'
    tells you about theory. It literally means "is able to be punished" or "is authorised to be punished", e.g.
    If a child is naughty in our school he [may be punished]/[is punishable] by placing him in detention.

    Here is an example (invented by me) that uses both forms.

    "In the past, in our country, murder has invariably been punished by death. When the changes in the law come about next year, murder will be punishable by life imprisonment instead."
     
    Last edited:

    Bigtime

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I was trying to avoid writing too much context for writing proofing.
    My original thought was:
    The suspect was accused of committing an act that is punishable by law which is imprisonment that exceed not one year.
    But after I read your comments, I would change the sentence to

    The suspect was accused of committing an act punishable by imprisonment that exceed not one year.

    Thanks again for explaining.

    T
     

    JJohnson

    Senior Member
    Texan English
    Almost.
    The suspect was accused of committing an act punishable by imprisonment that exceed not one year.
    Could read:
    ... punishable by imprisonment not to exceed one year.
    ... punishable by up to one year in prison.

     
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