Impel vs compel

< Previous | Next >

panzerfaust0

Senior Member
mandarin
Hi. I used that little search thing at the top of the page however I am still confused. These two sound very similar. But if I am to guess, I think "impel" comes from within, whereas "compel" comes from outside (of a person's head). Am I correct? Thanks.
 
  • srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It is not a matter of inside versus outside. There are uses where the meanings nearly coincide, but many where they are quite different. I can't compel someone forward, and I can't impel someone to make payment. I can compel someone to action or impel them to action, but even here there's a difference. One is a push, the other an irresistible push.
     

    panzerfaust0

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    It is not a matter of inside versus outside. There are uses where the meanings nearly coincide, but many where they are quite different. I can't compel someone forward, and I can't impel someone to make payment. I can compel someone to action or impel them to action, but even here there's a difference. One is a push, the other an irresistible push.
    Wait what? Which one is the "regular" push and which one is the irresistible push?

    Also, I think you are onto something. Indeed one cannot "impel" someone to make a payment. So what then, is the exact difference between these two words?

    Also, what is meant when someone says, " I impel someone forward"?
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It is not a matter of inside versus outside. There are uses where the meanings nearly coincide, but many where they are quite different. I can't compel someone forward, and I can't impel someone to make payment. I can compel someone to action or impel them to action, but even here there's a difference. One is a push, the other an irresistible push.
    I was trying to think of a way to say this and srk just did it well. :thumbsup:
     

    panzerfaust0

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    ^I still don't get the difference/s between these two words. Can you explain? I don't get what is so good about his/her post (not to offend him/her). I just don't get it.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It's nicely said.

    "Impel" means to push - usually physically.

    "Compel" means to force or require with implied physical force.

    srk points out, however, that there is a lot of idiomatic consideration here. Sometimes we use a word simply because that's the word we use in a particular context.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Panzerfaust, if you want to find (or construct) sentences using the two, we can probably tell you if they're correct and why. Often, it's easier to explain in context.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    From what I gather, impel (in its literal meaning, and hence its figurative) involves an undesired force that is beyond the physical strength or ability to resist, and compel involve an undesired force that is beyond the will to resist.

    Impel involves motion (often irresistible and/or swift), whereas compel involves a forcible urge to do something (not necessarily involving motion), usually against one’s own will or better judgement.

    “The current of the river impelled the boat towards the rocks.” / “The heart impels the blood through the arteries.”

    “Hunger compelled him to surrender.”
    “Although he knew that his brother would be arrested, he felt compelled to answer the question.”
     

    gramman

    Senior Member
    I applaud those learning the language who take the time to come to an understanding of the difference between these two words. Lazy clods like me are liable, I figure, to just use something like "force."
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    I was still bewildered until I read PaulQ's reply.

    From what I gather, impel (in its literal meaning, and hence its figurative) involves an undesired force that is beyond the physical strength or ability to resist, and compel involve an undesired force that is beyond the will to resist.

    Impel involves motion (often irresistible and/or swift), whereas compel involves a forcible urge to do something (not necessarily involving motion), usually against one’s own will or better judgement.

    “The current of the river impelled the boat towards the rocks.” / “The heart impels the blood through the arteries.”

    “Hunger compelled him to surrender.”
    “Although he knew that his brother would be arrested, he felt compelled to answer the question.”
    Now I am trying to use impel and compel to make sentences:

    (1) Getting his left leg badly broken, Bill is impelled to quit the marathon against his strong will to run.

    Here, Bill is forced out of the race because of physcially reasons: He no more has the ability to run, even though his will is still very strong for the competition.

    (2) Her boss ghostly appears in the playground, demanding Mary to leave the marathon. Fearing that she will be fired by the boss, Mary is compelled to leave her teammates and go back to her office.

    Here Mary has the ability to run the marathon but her will could not defy her boss' demand. Because her boss' will is too forceful for her to resist.

    Have I used "impel/compel" correctly here?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    1) Getting his left leg badly broken, Bill is impelled to quit the marathon against his strong will
    :cross: you are compelled to do something against your will or wishes.
    2. Mary is feels compelled to leave her team mates :tick:

    Bill was hit by a truck and impelled into a wall. He was fortunate only to have broken his leg.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top