discriminate / distinguish

Discussion in 'English Only' started by norwolf, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. norwolf Senior Member

    The memory capacity of bees means they can ___ among more than 50 different smells to find the one they want.
    A. discriminate B. distinguish

    Hi, teachers. What's the difference between the two words? Could you please "discriminate/distinguish" one from the other for me?

    Thank you in advance.
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    In my opinion, discriminate between things whereas, we can distinguish between or among things.

    For example, in your question Could you please "discriminate/distinguish" one from the other for me? only 'distinguish' can be used, (again) in my view.

    ADDED: You might want to tell us where you found the sample sentence (we like source).
  3. norwolf Senior Member

    Hi, Beryl. Thank you very much for giving me a hand. However, what you interpreted could bring something beyond me.
    First, personally, "discriminate among things" may be good enough, for we can find some examples in COCA;
    Next, according to OALD, we can say "discriminate A from B", too: Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition
    ~ A from B A number of features discriminate this species from others.
    © Oxford University Press, 2010

    Finally, the sample sentence is taken from a paper by some Chinese English teacher, which, to me, is confusing extremely: http://www.google.com.hk/search?hl=...to+find+the+one+they+want"&btnK=Google+Search
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2013
  4. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    Well, there you go. I did stress that it was only my opinion. It's a shame that no-one has ventured theirs, as yet. But there's plenty of time for that. (I like your name, norwolf. :))

    (Thanks for the source, though it merely links to a page of Google. I hope you can fix that.)
  5. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I take a slightly different view.

    To distinguish one thing from another it to perceive the difference between them.
    To discriminate is to act on that perception (e.g. by following one smell and not the other).

    So the correct word here would be distinguish; the discrimination is dealt with in the second part of the sentence to find the one they want.

    (Mind you, I may be influenced by 15 years' working against racial discrimination, where the word very specifically means to act to someone's detriment.)
  6. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>15 years' working against racial discrimination

    A distinguished record of service, characteristic, I expect, of your discriminating judgement.

    Here's some opinion from English synonymes explained in alphabetical order, by George Crabb, 1826 — three old, long sentences.
  7. norwolf Senior Member

    Great! I am learning so much from all of you.
    Can I treat the two as: to discriminate sounds to distinguish carefully and specifically?
  8. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    Hello, norwolf. I'm not sure what you mean by that ... and hmmm ... you still haven't fixed the source for post#1.
  9. norwolf Senior Member

  10. norwolf Senior Member

    I mean: if I can say to discriminate meaning to distinguish carefully and specifically, I can find a Chinese expression << --- >> to interpret the tough word discriminate, and << --- >> for distinguish.
    In this way, I can make the difference between the two words understood clearly by my Chinese students.

    << Chinese words removed. >>
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2013

Share This Page