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Inflict vs. Afflict

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If someone stabs you with a knife, did they afflict you with a wound, or inflict a wound on you? On the other hand, when you catch a cold, are you inflicted by a virus, or afflicted with one? Many writers aren’t sure how to use inflict and afflict correctly, and today I want to discuss how to use these two verbs.

In this post, I will compare afflict vs. afflict. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see them in context. Plus, I will show you a useful memory tool to help you remember whether afflict or inflict is the verb you seek.

Origin:

Inflict originated in mid 16th century (in the sense ‘afflict, trouble’): from Latin inflict- ‘struck against’, from the verb infligere, from in- ‘into’ + fligere ‘to strike’. The word afflict originated from late Middle English (in the sense ‘deject, humiliate’): from Latin afflictare ‘knock about, harass’, or from afflict- ‘knocked down, weakened’: both from the verb affligere, from ad- ‘to’ + fligere ‘to strike, dash’.

Inflict as verb:

The word inflict is used as a verb in English language where it means to cause (something unpleasant or painful) to be suffered by someone or something.

They inflicted serious injuries on three other men.

Inflict also means to impose something unwelcome on.

She is wrong to inflict her beliefs on everyone else.

Afflict as verb:

Afflict is also used as a verb which means to cause pain or trouble to from a disease or a condition; affect adversely.

His younger child was afflicted with a skin disease.

Examples:

Ever since the (re)birth of the state of Israel, it has been fashionable to blame this tiny country for all the ills that afflict the Middle East. [Independent]

American housing policy is afflicted with deep political pathologies. [San Francisco Examiner]

Underlying all of this is the fact that police officers are people, with the fallibilities and imperfections that afflict us all. [North Shore News]

Decade after decade, this family has been afflicted with one awful episode after another. [NBC New York]

It gives me no small amount of pleasure to watch the Democratic Party inflict harm upon itself with those “demonstrations” in Wisconsin. [Right Side News]

Musician Carnie Wilson and actress Tracey Gold join the mix as the two inflict unexpected chaos upon each other’s once orderly households. [Entertainment Tonight News]

The home side were 38-0 at the break and rattled up another 28 points in the second half to inflict a heavy defeat on the Saints. [Western Telegraph]

From beneath a self-inflicted avalanche of embarrassment, UCLA has risen. [Los Angeles Times]

Inflict or afflict

Inflict and afflict are two verbs that are so similar that it is easy to confuse them. Inflict means to cause harm or trouble. Afflict means to be caused harm or trouble by something, usually a disease. The two words appear similar and have related meanings, but they are used in specific ways. Since afflict is used with diseases, remember that it and atherosclerosis, a type of disease, both begin with the letter A. Nuances in meaning and usage can make similar verbs difficult to differentiate. Don’t forget, you can always check this site when you have questions about confusing words and other writing topics.

 

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"Inflict vs. Afflict." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 19 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/inflict_vs._afflict>.

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