lawless vs illegal

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Sun14

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello, my friends,

I was wondering when they are are interchangeable when referring to something that is not allowed in accordance with the laws. I made up two sentences:

1) It is illegal/lawless to intercept radio messages.

2)
The government recognized there were problems in urban areas but these could never be an excuse for illegal/lawless behaviour.

Would you give me some advice? Thank you.
 
Last edited:
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'Illegal' means 'forbidden by law'. It is used in defining specific actions or courses of action.

    'Lawless' means 'unrestrained by law' or 'ungoverned by law'. It is used in describing the attitudes or habits of people.

    In (1), the natural choice is 'illegal'.
    In (2), either term gives a natural result.
     

    Procol

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi
    Quite simply, lawless means without law or absence of law, illegal means against the law (implying the presence of a law). The two are definitely not interchangeable.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    'Illegal' means 'forbidden by law'. It is used in defining specific actions or courses of action.

    'Lawless' means 'unrestrained by law' or 'ungoverned by law'. It is used in describing the attitudes or habits of people.

    In (1), the natural choice is 'illegal'.
    In (2), either term gives a natural result.
    Thank you very much.
     
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