surpass and exceed

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forgoodorill

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, everyone!
I read some news about the novel coronavirus recently, and I always found these two words in the news:
surpass and exceed
Such as in the two titles below:

Coronavirus Updates: Dangerous Disease Now Called COVID-19; Death Toll Exceeds 1,100

Deaths surpass 1,100, but rate of infection begins to fall.

So I wonder what's the difference between them? I looked up and saw someone said

"Surpass" is often used in a positive sense, as in: "He surpassed the previous record for running the mile."

"Exceed" often seems to be used in a negative sense, as in: "He was arrested for exceeding the speed limit."

But it's clear both of them used as negative sense, so could anyone help me explain them?

Thanks in advance! :)

Source: Coronavirus Updates: Dangerous Disease Now Called COVID-19; Death Toll Exceeds 1,100

Surpass / Exceed
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree that "surpass" tends to have an implication of something good. I doubt that I would ever write "deaths surpass 1,100" unless I was writing about an attempt to eradicate rats from an island which was the last breeding place of a rare bird.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    They can be interchangeable, depending on the context. But I would personally make this slight differentiation:

    exceed = be more than the previous figure/level
    surpass = go beyond it
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I agree with that. Surpass has a nuance of movement. The number went past 1100 very recently.
     
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