hamper and impede

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GandalfMB

Senior Member
Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
Hello, everyone,
On Macmillan dictionary I came across this sentence "The search was hampered by the heavy snowfall." Does that mean the the search couldn't be carried out? On the other hand, I think that if we said "The search was impeded by the heavy snowfall.", that would suggest to me that the search was carried out, but it was also set back by the storm.

Am I on the right track? What are your suggestions?



Thank you in advance
 
  • Michael_Scofield1

    Member
    Greek
    "Hamper" means:
    a) prevent
    b) slow down
    c) do sth with difficulty
    d) stop
    So it depends on the context. Here it might means that the search was to be carried out but finally the heavy snowfall prevented it.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    "Hamper" means:
    a) prevent
    b) slow down
    c) do sth with difficulty
    d) stop
    So it depends on the context. Here it might means that the search was to be carried out but finally the heavy snowfall prevented it.
    Or it might not, as you have pointed out :). Thank you for joining in, Michael. I just wanted to know if "hamper and impede" were equally good when expressing the idea that something was set back (but carried out) due to bad weather.
    Thank you ;)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I see impede as (i) more formal and (ii) a little stronger than hamper. The latter sometimes to the extent that impede would temporarily stop progress but hamper would merely make the progress more difficult.

    The OED gives hamper as "to entangle, encumber, or embarrass, with obstacles or difficulties." and impede as " To retard in progress or action by putting obstacles in the way; to obstruct; to hinder; to stand in the way of."
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    I see impede as (i) more formal and (ii) a little stronger than hamper. The latter sometimes to the extent that impede would temporarily stop progress but hamper would merely make the progress more difficult.

    The OED gives hamper as "to entangle, encumber, or embarrass, with obstacles or difficulties." and impede as " To retard in progress or action by putting obstacles in the way; to obstruct; to hinder; to stand in the way of."
    Thank you, Paul. Do you consider "hinder" stronger than "impede"?
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    I was not familiar with encumber, but I looked it up. I think it suggests that something was slowed down by something/someone else, but still carried out. Therefore I think that it is more similar to hinder and hamper. What do you think?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    You might encumber someone by making them carry an extra load. You might hinder them by interrupting them. You might hamper them by not giving clear instructions. You might impede them by putting something in their way. There are situations in which any of these words could be used. Impede is the closest to "block", and therefore might mean progress was stopped altogether. The others imply that progress was merely slowed down.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    I am familiar with that meaning of "encumber". Thank you :). Okay, let's say that impede is the strongest, as Paul has pointed out. This is my last question. Then, can we say "The search for survivors was hampered/hindered/encumbered by the snowfall."? That suggests that the search was slowed down, set back, but not called off. Is that correct?

    Thank you so much for your help and patience :)
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    This is my last answer. You would not say encumbered by the snowfall, unless the problem was the weight of the snow which fell on top of you. But hinder/hamper/impede can all be used in this sentence and all would have the meaning you suggest.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    I did not suggest you were making anything up. Encumbered can often be used like that, it's just that a native speaker wouldn't choose to use it in the particular example you gave : one of the alternatives would be more appropriate.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    The police operation was encumbered by crowds of reporters. - I think it is kind of similar. What makes it different? I think that hinder/hamper could also be used here.


    Thank you
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Encumbered carries an association of weight, either physical or metaphorical. A crowd of reporters is heavy. We associate falling snow with lightness. So we would tend not to use encumbered when talking about falling snow. It's not wrong, it's just not the best choice.
     

    GandalfMB

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian - Yellow Beach
    I reckon that the weight of the crowd is used more figuratively. Such is the case in the other sentence "The business is encumbered with debt." If we cling to the weight, or the mass of things forming something huge, then this is a perfect example. The company owes someone a tremendous amount of money that they probably can't pay off.
     

    alrosavilla

    Senior Member
    Russian
    <Threads have been merged at this point by moderator (Florentia52)>

    Hi, I've gone through several similar topics, but I want to clarify something. As I understand, these words can be used in similar sentences but with a slightly different meaning. Could you please look at them?

    It hampers/impedes my career
    Environmental factors hamper/impede industrial activity
    Problems at home hamper/impede her ability to quickly develop new ideas

    First question - do these sentences sound ok or not?

    Second question - the meaning of hamper here is something like to interfere with or restrain, whereas impede means to slow down or even stop temporarily?
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I think of "impede" as "block". It is like a huge rock in a highway. You can't drive over it. You stop, or you drive around it.

    I think of "hamper" like you have things hanging on you. You are trying to run a race while carrying a suitcase and skis. You keep stumbling or moving clumsily because the things you are carrying hamper your movements.

    When you use the words as metaphors (like you do in your 2 example sentences) they are metaphors. They are "figures of speech". There is no precise rule for metaphors. There is no exact "you can say THIS but you can't say THAT" for metaphors.
     

    alrosavilla

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I think of "impede" as "block". It is like a huge rock in a highway. You can't drive over it. You stop, or you drive around it.

    I think of "hamper" like you have things hanging on you. You are trying to run a race while carrying a suitcase and skis. You keep stumbling or moving clumsily because the things you are carrying hamper your movements.

    When you use the words as metaphors (like you do in your 2 example sentences) they are metaphors. They are "figures of speech". There is no precise rule for metaphors. There is no exact "you can say THIS but you can't say THAT" for metaphors.
    Thanks, your examples perfectly show the difference. However, I don't see why for example industrial activity can't be hampered or impeded. It's a matter of sound? I mean such sentences wouldn't confuse people?
     
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