Preach & advocate?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by daoxunchang, Nov 8, 2006.

  1. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    Hello everone, how do you view the words "preach" and "advocate"?
    My teacher says that "preach" has a relatively derogatory connotation, while "advocate" a relatively recommendatory one. Is it right? I heard the latter word, "advocate", often in reports of political campaigns and thus have formed a rather negative understanding of this word. What about you? What't the general connotation in natives? Thank you.
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Personal impressions follow.

    To advocate is to endorse, recommend, support. Whether you regard this as positive, negative or neutral depends on how you view the person or the action being advocated.

    To preach, when taken outside a liturgical context, usually implies a patronising and condemnatory style and overly prescriptive content.
  3. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    It really depends on context (regarding "preach"), but in general I'd differentiate between the two in this way: preaching is a one-way communication, while advocating allows for discussion and debate.

    If I preach about the importance of reducing waste, I am convinced that it is right to reduce waste and I spend my time telling others that we must stop wasting so much. I do not ask for any opinion, debate, or feedback.

    If I am an advocate for reducing waste, I am convinced that it is right to reduce waste and I spend my time both talking about reducing waste and engaging others in discussions about the value of reducing waste.

    That's my general impression, at least.
  4. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    You've heard the adage "Those who can't do, preach." It's so easy to say one thing, but do another and that's what gives "preach" a bad name.
  5. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    In addition to the above, "preach" means you're telling someone what to do, "advocate" implies that you're strongly encouraging something.
  6. maxiogee Banned

    I would like to suggest that, while I may advocate measures I have devised myself, I can only preach of other people's messages. I don't think anyone preaches their own thinking.
  7. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    Actually, I believe the adage is, "Those who can't do, teach."

    You might have been thinking of the adage: "You need to practice what you preach."
  8. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I beg to differ, maxiogee, I can think of a lot of people who preach their own thinking, theories, thoughts, or whatever.
  9. daoxunchang Senior Member

    Chinese China
    I didn't expect attracting so many people to this post. Thanks for your warm help. Now I'd like to make things a little bit easier, or I hope so. We were given the choice in a Chinese-English translation class. So, I just want a really "general" distinguishing between the two. From what you have said, I think my teacher's use of them was right--- "preach" seems really notorious, while "advocate" leaves much space for the "advocatee" to take part and thus a "better" word, in general. Hope I have understood correctly.
    Again many thanks.

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