to abide by vs to follow

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Senior Member
The quotation comes from

Quotation: Beijing, American defense officials said, still has not responded to Mr. Hagel’s invitation to reciprocate with a briefing of its own.

General Chang stood impassively during Mr. Hagel’s call for more openness on cybersecurity. When it was his turn to talk, he said that “the defense activity of the People’s Liberation Army in cyberspace abides” by Chinese law. “It will not pose a threat to others,” he added.
Hi everyone! I have a question about "to abide by" here.

I think it means "to conform to, comply with, or act in accordance with;obey", as in the WR dictionary: follow. So I try to replace "abides by" with the common word "follows" - "People’s Liberation Army in cyberspace follows Chinese law". Then is there any difference?
  • nowt000

    Senior Member
    I think the meaning is identical, but you'll have to pay attention to the discourse register. "Follow" sounds a little informal. People follow rules but not necessarily abide by them. :)


    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think follows sounds a bit odd with an inanimate subject here. It is a bit ambiguous in whether it means obeys or takes a close and continuous interest in so it might not be ideal in your diplomatically sensitive context!


    Senior Member
    Thanks. I also expect native speakers' comments. I know they are basically same, but I want to figure out the slight difference.
    I suspect in most cases the difference is trivial. Don't worry about these subtle nuances. When you get increasingly proficient, you will be able to "automatically" use apt words. :)


    Senior Member
    UK English
    The only way to use synonyms "correctly" is to remember examples that you read. Looking up the meaning in a dictionary is not enough. The OED often gives examples but, unfortunately, for your purposes they do not often reflect modern usage. The only way to find examples is to use a corpus (BNC, COCA or NOW) or Google Books. Simply putting the phrase into Google throws up all sorts of unusual collocations.

    But I don't really think that it makes much difference whether you say to follow, abide by, adhere to, conform to tradition/the law.
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