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Sentence in question: “The coursework for this assignment is differentiated and dependent on grade level and ELA designation.”

on or upon? Does it matter? Does it ever matter?

  • February 17, 2005
  • Posted by sarah3
  • Filed in Misc

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I'm appalled that "English-minded educators" confuse the use of "it's" and "its".

No wonder...

Miffed October 11, 2006, 5:59pm

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Both on and upon can be used. In no situation would there ever be a difference in the meaning between "dependent on" and "dependent upon."

On a side note, I think "differentiated" in the original sentence should be immediately followed by the word "by," since the coursework is both differentiated by the grade level and ELA designation and dependent on (or upon, whichever you prefer) the grade level and ELA designation.

lamont2718 February 17, 2005, 7:46pm

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CQ is absolutely right in that "upon" is slightly more formal--but could could I get a spell check on my name? :P

lamont2718 February 18, 2005, 9:58pm

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hmmm, Shawn comes up fine in my spell-checker :)

IngisKahn March 30, 2005, 10:21pm

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I agree with Shawn, only to add that I think "upon" is a bit more formal sounding.

I also 100% agree with his 2nd comment about "by"...otherwise what your sentence says is "differentiated (up)on and dependent (up)on" which doesn't really make sense

CQ February 18, 2005, 8:32am

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Thank you! Great points.

Sarah February 18, 2005, 9:43am

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Sorry, S-E-A-N. :) My husband's name is spelled the other way...I make that mistake often. Mea maxima culpa

CQ February 19, 2005, 9:49am

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I am bothered by people who use the term "differentiate" as a synonym for "distinguish" or "discriminate." Such usage is admittedly correct, but the term "differentiate" has specific, technical meanings in mathematical analysis, and is occasionally confusing.

a pet peeve April 19, 2005, 9:50pm

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Pet, the use of "differentiated" is correct in this sentence. The word can be used, and often is used, outside of a mathematical context--for instance in biology, to refer to 'cell differentiation."

But technical meanings aside, both the transitive and intransitive meanings of the word are well attested and correct, even in situations in which you may personally prefer a synonym such as "discriminate" or "distinguish."

speedwell2 April 20, 2005, 8:44am

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The use of 'differentiate' is integral to the tone of the response. Were it replaced by 'distinguish' or 'discriminate', the text would be left with a fraction of the clarity, and the words may add undesired layers of ambiguity or inference which would subtend and distort the true meaning. The discriminant use of the word in its proper function serves only to provide a prime example of neutral yet precise language. Indeed, (and not to be hyperbolic) using a subset of language that avoids terms from other domains would cause an exponential growth in length of texts, as an expanding range of complex meanings would be forced on fewer words.

Of course, we should probably avoid dragging the conversation off onto this particular tangent.

Persephone Imytholin April 20, 2005, 12:15pm

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Persephone... subtle, subtle. LOL

speedwell2 April 20, 2005, 5:16pm

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Thanks. XD

Persephone Imytholin April 21, 2005, 7:41am

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For the record, using "differentiate" has a technical significance in the realm of Education, where I drew this quote while editing. However, I am not to defend it's original existence, as many words used with understood definitions in Education commonly contradict their true definitions. This just drives those of us English-minded educators batty!

The common misuse of "standards" in education is a major faux pas for many of my colleagues, as we wince each time media and government use the term.

Sarah April 29, 2005, 1:34pm

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Yes     No