The policeman's courageous action/act

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arueng

Senior Member
CHINESE
Hi,
I guess it's wrong to use "action" in the sentence below. Instead, it should use "act." Correct me if I am wrong. Thanks.


The policeman's courageous action saved the lives of many people.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Without more context I don't have a strong preference. I would want to know what the policeman did. Dictionary.com has the following usage note on action.
    Action applies esp. to the doing, act to the result of the doing. An action usually lasts through some time and consists of more than one act: to take action on a petition. An act is single: an act of kindness.​
     

    Ann O'Rack

    Senior Member
    UK
    UK English
    No, "action" is fine, but so is "act".

    "Act" implies that he did one thing that saved the lives. It may well be appropriate - if he threw himself on a gunman, then that would be a single act.
    "Action" implies that he was running around doing things (see "take action" for the context of "action" in your sentence). He might have thrown himself on a gunman, wrestled him to the floor and yelled at the passers-by to get out of the way, then hand-cuffed the gunman and called for back-up. That's not just "act", that's "action".

    Considering the two scenarios I have described, "action" would be ok in either cirumstance, "act" would only be appropriate in the first.
     

    manon33

    Senior Member
    English - England (Yorkshire)
    No, "action" is fine, but so is "act".

    "Act" implies that he did one thing that saved the lives. It may well be appropriate - if he threw himself on a gunman, then that would be a single act.
    "Action" implies that he was running around doing things (see "take action" for the context of "action" in your sentence). He might have thrown himself on a gunman, wrestled him to the floor and yelled at the passers-by to get out of the way, then hand-cuffed the gunman and called for back-up. That's not just "act", that's "action".

    Considering the two scenarios I have described, "action" would be ok in either cirumstance, "act" would only be appropriate in the first.
    Surely if the policeman did more than one thing, it would be actions?

    I think act/action are synonymous and singular; actions are plural and slightly different - a sequence of different acts/actions.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree with coolieinblue. If each of these is not a specific movement, but a combination of movements, you might say something like "20 fixed patterns of movements".

    I think we use "acts/ actions" when we are concerned with their effects. We use another word, such as movements, when we are concerned with physical movement itself.
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    What if the context is this?

    Scribbling refers to the act/action of writing something down quickly on a piece of paper.

    I think both are fine when talking about one single action?
     
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