underwent a conversion

Silver

Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
Hi,

I'd like to know about the expression "He underwent quite a conversion". And my teacher told me it meant "He changed a lot".

I got the meaning when she showed us this sentence but I didn't think this sentence is idiomatic. At least, it sounds very formal.

Can anyone help?

Thanks a lot
 
  • Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    He underwent quite a conversion - the sentence is fine, silverobama.
    To undergo means the same as "to go through", "to experience", so you can undergo an ordeal, an operation, a conversion, etc. The "go" part conjugates in the same way as the simple verb "to go".
    So: The house is undergoing repairs. He underwent (he had) an operation last week and he's recovering well. The theatre has undergone a multi-million dollar makeover.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It is not at all idiomatic for the meaning "changed a lot". Virtually all the hits on the Web are Chinese websites repeating that one sentence from an Oxford learners' dictionary. A conversion is specifically a religious conversion, not a mere change of beliefs, and using it more widely for a change of other beliefs is comparing it to a major religious event, a 'road to Damascus' experience.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I agree with etb that I associate conversion with a religious conversion. I also associate it with architecture (a barn converted into a cottage, a basement converted to a flat) and people talk about a loft undergoing a conversion, for example.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I agree that the most common way of using "underwent a conversion" would be in reference to a religious conversion of some kind (either from one religion to another, or from indifference to fervor: for example, Ignatius Loyola underwent a spiritual conversion as his was recuperating from an injury received in battle.) However, it can also be used for other important and deeply held beliefs that affect your actions and your world outlook: While he started at the Sorbonne as an anarchist, by the time he graduated he had undergone a political conversion and was an ardent monarchist who sought the return of the Bourbons to the throne of France.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Oh, I see.

    So if I put the expression in this context, it makes no sense at all:

    After many years of working in the fast-developing city, he underwent a conversion.

    If I change "underwent a conversion" to "changed a lot", it makes perfect sense.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Although some further context would help, I see "After many years of working in the fast-developing city, he underwent a conversion." so natural that I could be reading out of a book; I would use it myself without hesitation.

    It is quite acceptable to suggest someone other than Saul had a "Damascus/Damascene moment". The subject could have been a capitalist red in tooth and claw and then decided to live a life of chastity and poverty or vice versa.

    By contrast, "changed a lot" is positively mundane, anodyne, unimaginative.
     

    momowuwen

    Member
    Chinese
    Although some further context would help, I see "After many years of working in the fast-developing city, he underwent a conversion." so natural that I could be reading out of a book; I would use it myself without hesitation.

    It is quite acceptable to suggest someone other than Saul had a "Damascus/Damascene moment". The subject could have been a capitalist red in tooth and claw and then decided to live a life of chastity and poverty or vice versa.

    By contrast, "changed a lot" is positively mundane, anodyne, unimaginative.
    PaulQ, your words may be too idiomatic. What's the meaning of "The subject could have been a capitalist red in tooth and claw and then decided to live a life of chastity and poverty or vice versa.

    "? Can you explain it in simple words? Thank you!
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    The original question suggests that "underwent quite a conversion" is some sort of set expression; it's not. This is simply a sentence (a perfectly grammatical one). And as has been pointed out, it doesn't simply mean "changed a lot".

    I agree with GWB (post #5) that it usually refers to religious conversion but can also refer to other profound beliefs. I would only add that it is sometimes used sarcastically: "The senator was a fervid denier of global warming as recently as last fall but seems to have undergone a sudden conversion to the Al Gore viewpoint following a recent public opinion poll in his state."
     
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