Overwhelmed/Overcome by/with?

sambistapt

Senior Member
Brazilian Portuguese
Hello amigos!

The maestro was overwhelmed/overcome by/with her voice during the concert.(in a positive way)

Can I use these adjetives interchangeably? Is there any difference between them?

Thanks,

Sam:cool:
 
  • Erebos12345

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Overwhelmed with and overcome by usually need to be followed by something that will indicate whether it's used positively or negatively.

    I'm overwhelmed with work. (negative)
    The workers were overcome by joy after winning the lottery. (positive)
    Five miners overcome by gas fumes. (negative)
    She's overwhelmed with grief after the loss of her son. (negative)

    So in your example, it's still somewhat ambiguous whether the maestro was astonished by her voice because it was very good or because it was terrible. So, adding an extra adjective in there should clear it up. her beautiful voice, etc.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    Overwhelmed with and overcome by usually need to be followed by something that will indicate whether it's used positively or negatively.

    I'm overwhelmed with work. (negative)
    The workers were overcome by joy after winning the lottery. (positive)
    Five miners overcome by gas fumes. (negative)
    She's overwhelmed with grief after the loss of her son. (negative)

    So in your example, it's still somewhat ambiguous whether the maestro was astonished by her voice because it was very good or because it was terrible. So, adding an extra adjective in there should clear it up. her beautiful voice, etc.
    I wouldn't have used 'by' with 'overcome' in your second example. I think 'overcome with' would be more usual. Nevertheless, this would still sound very strange, as one would be more likely to say they were 'overjoyed'. I'm not really sure whether either 'overwhelmed' or 'overcome' can ever be used in a positive sense. At least, non occur to me at this moment.:)
     

    Erebos12345

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Well, the most apparent example is when people are overwhelmed with [happy feeling]. But it does seem that these phrases tend to imply something negative.
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    I think either one of those adjectives in this context sound negative inherently. I would suggest:

    The maestro was amazed/astonished/bewildered/etc. by her voice during the concert.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    I think either one of those adjectives in this context sound negative inherently. I would suggest:

    The maestro was amazed/astonished/bewildered/etc. by her voice during the concert.
    But amazed and astonished are not necessarily negative, even in this context.
     
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