Use of resolve as solve?

Lucilulu

Member
Spanish-Costa Rica
Hi

I've seen certain suggestions about the difference between resolve and solve. It seems to be that problems are solved but not resolved. However, I'd like to see if this example is valid. I found it in an English dictionary.

Have you resolved the problem of transport yet?

Thanks
 
  • Lucilulu

    Member
    Spanish-Costa Rica
    I'm sorry. It's just that I feel confused everytime I use it. Some people say I can't use it that way, but then I see other people giving examples like this. So, when it's my time to write I hesitate a lot.

    Thanks very much for you help. I'll keep that in mind.
     

    Joca

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    It seems that to solve is the more general word, meaning to find a solution or answer to a problem or situation, whereas to resolve would rather mean to analyze or consider or put in words (formulate) a problem or situation, not necessarily finding a solution to it.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I offer respectful disagreement, Joca. I do not generally use resolve as a subset of solve. I solve—or make foolhardy attempts to solve—puzzles and mysteries and mathematical problems. I resolve difficulties, situations, doubts, questions, and sometimes musical themes.
     

    Lucilulu

    Member
    Spanish-Costa Rica
    Chuchuflete, do you think there might a difference of meaning depending on the area or country you come from?

    That's why I'm always confused, because I'm given the same definitions Joca shared.

    And in a previous thread --kind of old, by the way-- I found similar definitions. I read that you resolve personal conflicts, but not difficulties such as transport.

    ???? :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hi Lucilulu,

    I think that a good monolingual English dictionary will give many examples in which one or the other verb is most appropriate, and a few cases in which either verb may be used. Have a look, for example, at the Oxford and Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionaries, or Merriam-Webster, Random House (at dictionary.com) and others.

    If you have particular contexts that are troubling, in addition to the one in the first post,
    you are welcome to post them here for discussion. Sometimes only context will point towards one or the other verb as the most suitable.
     

    researcher616

    Member
    American English
    ...do you think there might a difference of meaning depending on the area or country you come from?

    I really don't think so with these two words. It is difficult to explain the difference, to be sure.

    Not to confuse the situation further, but it appears that solve refers more to concrete problems (as cucuflete mentioned: puzzles and mysteries and mathematical problems) and resolve refers more to abstract problems and situations (again, as cucuflete mentioned: difficulties, situations, doubts, questions, and so forth).
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Lucilulu, I would add that neither solve nor resolve are not exact cognates of the same verb in Spanish (and apparently Portuguese, as well). They are both given as translations of the Spanish verb that looks like resolve, but as you can see, they are used in different ways in English. That's why I would emphasize Cuchuflete's advice to use a good monolingual English dictionary.
     

    Lucilulu

    Member
    Spanish-Costa Rica
    Lucilulu, I would add that neither solve nor resolve are not exact cognates of the same verb in Spanish (and apparently Portuguese, as well). They are both given as translations of the Spanish verb that looks like resolve, but as you can see, they are used in different ways in English. That's why I would emphasize Cuchuflete's advice to use a good monolingual English dictionary.

    Actually, I've always had that confusion between these two words. Trust me, it's not because I'm using bilingual dictionaries. And I know very well how different the meanings of their cognates in Spanish are.

    I even copied the example I found in a monolingual dictionary (at the beginning of this thread).

    My confusion started long time ago, when in my composition courses, professors told me I had the wrong concept of those words. But they never explained to me why.

    Thanks very much for all the info. My concern is to write my reports and my letters using the wrong word. But I'll keep in mind your suggestions.
     

    boriszcat

    Senior Member
    English - US and Dude - a California dialect
    To solve is usually used for smaller, specific problems, as researcher suggested. A complicated situation would be resolved, however. For instance, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may one day be resolved, but it will not be simply "solved" like a crossword puzzle.
     
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