Submitted by hope on November 30, 2006

Impact as a noun

My history professor would not accept the word “impact” as a noun, as in “The first explorers left a substantial impact on the Mayan empire”. He wrote on my paper and pointed out my error in a lecture, that “impact” could only be used as a verb, as in “the car impacted the tree”. Is there any truth to this, or did some college mistakenly give this crazy man a phd?!

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These are some examples of the use of "impact" as a noun cited in Webster Unabridged Dictionary:

"air rendered incandescent by the vehemence of the impacts of the electrons against its molecules" -- K.K.Darrow

"a way of securing a maximum of dramatic impact on the reader -- W.M.Frohock

"the impact of modern science and technology upon society as a whole" -- Harrison Brown

"loses the impact of the basic story in a maze of philosophies" -- Whitney Betts

"American youth in the early 1930s felt spiritually paralyzed by the impact of confusing events" -- J.W.Chase

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I think "crazy" a very polite description for the gentleman - what he claims is arrant nonsense, and if anything it would be the use of impact as a verb that is questionable (at least for a Brit, such as myself)!

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If your professor has an ounce of integrity, he will look at the evidence and announce to the whole class that he was mistaken.

I've just spot-checked some books from Project Gutenberg. In the works of Mark Twain, "impact" is used once as a verb and twice as a noun (e.g., "Now you see that this constant impact of crime upon crime protects you against further commission of crime." - "Theoretical Morals"). In "When the Sleeper Wakes", by H. G. Wells, it's used four times, always as a noun ("He felt something soft against his extended hand, and the impact of a broken fall quivering through his arm. . .")

For more modern examples, enter "impact site:www.time.com" in Google to find how the word is used in Time magazine. When I looked at the first ten pages returned, every single use of "impact" was a noun.

What surprised me was that, according to M-W's Collegiate Dictionary, the verb use of "impact" goes back to 1601, while the noun use came along as late as 1781.

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It's weird, because usually people object to nouns that are turned in to verbs. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has a usage note about objections to "impact" as a verb, but none about the noun.

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I think the morning whisky had left a great "impact" on the dude the day he uttered that utter nonsense.
I just want to say that I believe one great advantage of English language is that almost always one can use a noun as a verb and vise versa. (I know that some would have objections.) But what could be cooler than—just as a familiar example—QT saying “don’t fuckin’ Jimmie me man!” I wonder if the professor would accept Jimmie as a noun!

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Fool...

Kick him in the face? Good deal.

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This might not exactly improve your grade, but I suggest you go to www.dictionary.com and look up impact. Then print out the entire page and demand your history professor read every word, slowly, in your presence,especially the usage notes. Then ask him to look up pedantic, dogmatic, and moronic, and ask him to explain which one best describes himself (hints: it's not the first one; and extreme generosity would be needed to allow the second to be chosen).

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I also have only heard the opposite--an objection to impact as a verb. I love nouns-turned-verbs; it's the American way!

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As impact can unquestionably be a noun, I'd very interested in seeing the original sentence from your paper.

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To me it will always be a noun. It's a little questionable as a verb. I especially hate the past tense form of the verb, probably because it makes the word sound bulky and awkward: "He impacted my car."
Any of you heard the word "podium" as a verb? This one drives me buggy: "I will podium at the Olympics" or even worse, the past tense: "I podiumed." Doesn't it sound a little dirty?

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I believe the exact opposite to be the case. "Impact" is surely only acceptable as a noun. Until recently, I never heard anyone use it as a verb, and every time I do, I wince. It sounds like some horrible modern corporate jargon to say "The cat's death impacted on my life..."

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I'm with everyone else here, "impact" can be a noun or a verb (in speech, the noun stresses the first syllable and the verb, the second, well, the way I say it, that is). I did want to add a little note on college professors, though. I knew someone who told me about an experience they had in college, where this person wrote the phrase "the events which transpired." He told me that the professor had basically spat red ink all over the phrase, furiously scribbling that the word "transpire" does not mean "happen," and that it comes from the Latin words "trans" (across) and "spirare" (to blow/to breathe) and that it clearly means "to blow across." So yeah, next time you hear someone using the word "transpire" with the meaning of "to blow across," let me know because as far as I can tell, the only people who do something as twistedly pedantic (to the point of hideous error) as this are, you guessed it, college professors.

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Thirty years ago, I was taught that 'impact' was never to be used as a verb. However, I see it used as a verb more and more often these days. I was interested in the comment that it was first used as a verb. But anyway I recently decided to learn to live with the use of 'impact' as a verb. I wince, but does make sense. But I won't ever accept 'snuck'!

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English has a habit of changing nouns into verbs. It's called functional shift. Often the change is condemned, but gradually it is accepted by all speakers.

These verbs started their life as nouns: curb, date, elbow, interview, panic, park, contact, impact, text.

http://www.bartleby.com/61/49/C0594900.html

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oops, I guess I'm wrong about "impact", it seems it was a verb first.

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I think it's a great discussion...I had a prof that wouldn't let me use the work lifestyle, because what the hell is it saying?
That was his point, I think, its trite.
Make your point some other way, for chrissake, the old coot had to read thousands of papers with highschool-ease ingrained into their fabric......fuck, kill me now.

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While impact as a verb, and a non-literal meaning as synonym of effect, may have come into popular usage, that doesn't necessarily mean that one ought to do it.

Many forget that dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. One would do well to BUY an unabridged dictionary (I know it's not dictionary.com) and look at the whole history of the word. The shift in the meaning of the word "impact" is unnecessary and, in my opinion, the pinnacle of linguistic vulgarity.

The use of terms such as "impact on" and the reviling popular uses of the transitive case "impacting" are the products of corporate-speak and the obsessive need to perpetually find more extreme linguistic representations for our thoughts.

Impact is a beautiful and useful word - if you stick to the historical use of the term, which describes a literal blunt force. We have plenty of other words to describe impact as a synonym of "effect" in the less literal sense.

In this case, I agree with your professor - but I think his critique is to your loose usage of the definition of impact. Please people, save the language! Use "impact" in the manner it was originally intended and avoid the corporate-speak.

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Believe it or not, I had a professor who told me exactly the opposite - he told me that the use of impact as a verb is a "barbarism." It is never, according to him, acceptable to say "globalization impacts society."

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The world did not impact upon me until I got to the Post Office and picked up my mail - Christopher Morley, The Man Who Made Friends with Himself, 1949

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I've mostly seen objections to "impact" as a verb, with the caution that "affect" should be used in its place. Impact most decidedly is a noun, whose verbing is a relatively recent phenomenon.

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One of my favorite sentences: "Not content merely to verb nouns, he began participling them" (Richard Powers).

Yer prof sounds a right git.

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I never noticed impact being used as a verb until news reporters and other television announcers of that ilk began using it that way. There is, apparently, no "style" book for their trade and, though they often refer to themselves as journalists, they habitually reveal ignorance of proper English grammar and usage in this way.
In fact, I sent an email to a local news station about this very thing and was told in the reply that he (the writer) knew it was wrong, but that he allowed it because "English is a dynamic language."
Enough wrongs, in other words, make a right.

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Josh, I would think that for someone with such a strong opinion, you would know the difference between "effect" and "affect". "Impact" is a synonym for the latter, not the former.
Chris, did you mean "verbifying rather than ""verbing"?
And, Tracy, two wrongs may not make a right, but three rights make a left.

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"Impact" as a verb is a synonym for "affect"; in its noun form, it's "effect":

"How will this situation impact/affect us? What will be its impact/effect?"

While I might disagree with Josh's overall prescriptive stance, his usage of "impact"="effect" is correct; you'll note he was referring to "impact"'s original meaning of "blunt force", as opposed to its current watered-down meaning of "effect".

I tend to take the middle ground. I believe the language evolves thanks to innovators who use words in a new (and, at the time, questionable way), and the prescriptivists, who have a tempering effect (impact?) on wholesale linguistic chaos. Without the innovators, the language would become stagnant; without the presciptivists, the language would cease to exist as an effective means of communication as it becomes excessively balkanized by slangs, argots, and jargons. "Fo shizzle my Pizzle used to dribble down in V.A." "??? lol n00b! PWNED!!!1!!"

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SigPig, your theory assumes that slangs, argots and jargons will supplant the standard dialect. That is not at all obvious. Speakers can code-switch between different dialects and registers.

I think it's more accurate to say that without a standard dialect, the language would cease to exist as an effective means of communication among the different English speech communities. I don't think that the standard dialect needs to rely on prescriptivism - and I mean the "X is right, Y is wrong" kind of prescriptivism. For instance, some usage books give a descriptive account of standard English, letting speakers choose the variants available depending on the context.

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Sigpig, are you reading a different post than me? Josh said "While impact as a verb, and a non-literal meaning as synonym of effect..." I completely agree that impact can be synonymous with affect or effect depending on its use as verb or noun, but Josh most definitely and incorrectly referred to the verb, not the noun, in his very first line.

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This reminds me of my international relations professor who would always cross out the naughty word I use when discussing males and females and write "GENDER!" in red ink. He even corrected someone verbally in class for saying the word.

I'm not a great writer, and it doesn't really bother me if people want to use the word gender when talking about males and females, especially if they blush at the mere thought of that other word. Still, you shouldn't be given a hard time when you're using words appropriately.

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One of the beauties of the English language, no, make that ALL language in general, is the use of metaphor. If I say, "the idea just smacked me in the back of my head", even if no one has ever used smack before in that metaphorical context, it's still not bad grammar, it's poetry. Actually, it's the very definition of poetry.

There is NOTHING wrong with using impact in such a loose sense. There's nothing wrong with using ANY word in such a loose analogical sense. We're not robots.

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“Impact” IS a noun. The professor had a point though. I think the point is that you cannot “leave” an impact on something. One dictionary definition of impact is “to have an immediate and strong effect on something or somebody”. So would you say the explorers “left an immediate and strong effect on the Mayan empire”? No. But you might say that “the explorers’ presence made an impact [at that time which had a lasting effect].”

I’ve read so much about “impact” as a verb – “impacted on”, “it impacts on”, etc. More than whether it should be used as a verb or not, the annoying thing about it being used as a verb is because it is OVER-used. It’s a lazy description. It’s a form of jargon often used by those trying to sound articulate, and more than anything I’m just bored of hearing it.

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Another thought. The word (noun) “impact” is used in a military context. For example, the “point of impact” to describe the exact point where something happened in a moment in time (a bomb exploded). It is a tangible location as a point on a map, on an aerial reconnaissance photo, and on the ground as a crater and the centre of death and destruction. It is not used as “the bomb made an impact” or ”left an impact” – sounds weird. And it’s not used in the future/general tense: “the bomb will have an impact on the war”. The only “impact” will be where it lands – but it can have an “affect” on the war. It is not used as a verb (“the bomb impacted on the target”) or as a transitive verb (“the bomb impacted the target”). However, it is used, perhaps “incorrectly” [?] to describe a plane that crashed into the ground (“the plane impacted the hillside”). “Impact” has connotations of a specific, instantaneous moment in time (“the bus driver was killed on impact”) without connotations of a long, drawn-out, continuous and yet vague sequence of events (“the incident impacted on the lives of so many”/”will continue to impact forevermore…”/”the impact lasted a lifetime”). An exception would be “impacted” wisdom teeth because the single “event” or “moment in time” – the single factor – in this case is continuous. Wisdom teeth impact INTO the jaw, not ONTO. A plane crashed INTO the ground (impact). A car crashed INTO another car, that’s the impact, and it happens INTO not ONTO. Therefore, “impacted on” is weird. Isn’t it? I’m getting more confused – like when you repeat a word over and over, and suddenly it loses its meaning…

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Until the language scholars decide to accept a new meaning for impact, a car cannot impact a tree. A bullet can impact a tree. "To impact" means to bury into something. "Impacted" means in a buried condition, like a tooth that is impacted in a gum.

We are not limited to using impact as a noun any more than we are limited in using effect as a noun. [Our effort can effect (bring about) a good result.] The problem comes when we give it a new meaning due to ignorance. Scholars hold off the onslaught of ignorant changes as long as they can. I am sure "impact", meaning "affect" will have to become part of the language in time, at the chagrin of all respectable teachers of English. We have had to follow the example of the illiterate on numerous occasions in the past and I am sure the trend will continue.

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Almost any noun can be verbed, and vice versa. Usually reduces the clarity of a word form when you start to use it in another form. For example, while the noun "podium" is pretty clear, the verb made from podium could easily be "make a podium", "sleep under a podium" or something else intended by the speaker that is not the same as "finish in the top three and receive an award on a podium".

Impact is obviously in common use as a noun and a verb. I think the bigger issue here is all the examples of "leave an impact". My understanding is that the impact is the force of collison - it can't be left.

Or maybe I'm just Captain Pedantic.

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I'm definitely in the camp of joshelson and others who agree that impact should not be used as a verb, except when describing a blunt force. It sounds very peculiar to say, "the price increases have impacted us". .... as if the price increases have somehow smashed into us. (Rather han simply, "the price increases have affected us")

However, today I encountered "impact" as a verb at least three times in the media: in a sitcom, and read it in a newspaper article in a heretofore respectable newspaper. These days you hear it pretty much every day.

Sometimes when I hear it, I want to say, "for god's sake, stop saying that!"

Language changes, as they say. This one word that has taken the world by storm, and all the protesting by me or anyone else of its incorectness will stop no one from using it. Gradually, as it has caught on, anyone who has grown up in the last 10-20 years or will hardly remember a time when impact was not in use as a verb and a synonym for "affect".

I expect to see it shortly turn up in respectable dictionaries as well. Such is the power of this word that it has already, um, impacted me greatly. ;(

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Some (such as Goofy, 2006), use citations such as the one below to prove that using impact as a verb has been going on for a while:

"The world did not impact upon me until I got to the Post Office and picked up my mail." - (Christopher Morley, The Man Who Made Friends with Himself, 1949)

The key here is "upon". Up until relatively recently, you could say "it impacted upon me" (but this usage was still quite rare) but NOT "it impacted me".

Anyway the year is now 2011, and I'll say this once again. (Are you listening future generations? -- I know you are out there and are reading this! And Please stop staying, "this has impacted us" when you really mean, "this has affected us."

There, now I guess we've settled that once and for all. ;)

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Impact can be both a noun and a verb.

However, at the risk of sounding cynical, I suggest you humour your professor in this instant. After you've finished the course, you can ignore him.

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Oops! I meant "instance".

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As joshelson stated:-
"The use of terms such as "impact on" and the reviling popular uses of the transitive case "impacting" are the products of corporate-speak and the obsessive need to perpetually find more extreme linguistic representations for our thoughts."
Spot on!!
As my english teachers insisted:-
"Impact as a verb can never be transitive"

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Bryan Garner ("Garner's Modern American Usage"; he's like a modern-day Fowler) ranks the use of "impact" as a verb as "Stage 3: The form becomes commonplace among even the well-educated people but is still avoided in careful usage."

Here's a noun-into-a-verb word that makes me shudder every time I hear it: gifted, gifting, etc. As in, "I gifted him the birthday present" or "I am gifting you this one-day trip to the spa." Does this bother anyone else as much as it bothers me? (Not the trip to the spa; the usage of "gift" as a verb.) Have "give," "gave," and "giving" somehow fallen into disfavor?

I'm not objecting to the use of "gifted" in the sense of someone who has a special talent ("she was a gifted pianist").

Garner ranks this as a stage 2 (which is worse than stage 3): "The form spreads to a significant fraction of the language community but remains unacceptable in standard usage."

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Marina, I know some others might share your opinion about gifted, but I don't really understand the objection. For a more detailed discussion specifically about "gifted", see:

http://painintheenglish.com/case/4520

Scroll down there for my comments.

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@Marina ... I hate to burst your and Garner's bubble but the verb came BEFORE the noun:

impact (n.)
1781, "collision," from impact (v.). Figurative sense of "forceful impression" is from 1817 (Coleridge).

impact (v.)
c.1600, "press closely into something," from L. impactus, pp. of impingere "to push into, dash against, thrust at". Originally sense preserved in impacted teeth (1876). Sense of "strike forcefully against something" first recorded 1916. Figurative sense of "have a forceful effect on" is from 1935.

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"(at least for a Brit, such as myself)!" Wrong. "such as me". You can't use the reflexive unless you already have yourself in the sentence.

Just because a dictionary accepts usage as its standard doesn't make it correct. They just bend with the wind. They probably also show dynamic as a noun, flagship as any important thing, graphic as shocking, "mano a mano" as face to face, metrics as statistics, personify as represent ("This brand personifies our company"), reinvent as improve, surreal as interesting, über as cool, and appocrophal as important. One hundred years ago, a dictionary served the purpose of directing. Now it only reflects how the common people speak, even if they are just making things up as they go along.

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Well, I'm glad I'm one of the common people and not one of these people who go round telling others what they can and can't do. Even the famous William Safire, who thought this use inelegant, conceded it wasn't incorrect. You'll excuse me if I pay more heed to writers like Jane Austen, Shakespeare, GBS, James Joyce, E.L.Doctorow, Henry James, Kingsley Amis and even Safire on one occasion, all of whom have used the reflexive pronoun without an antecedent. It's people like them who make English a great language, not pedants who shout 'Wrong!' at anyone who says something they don't like.

http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&a...

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@WW
I'm with you 100% on that.
I will admit that I used to take a somewhat pedantic view, never to the extent of yelling "wrong", but there were lots of things I considered "cringeworthy".
Since joining PITE my views have certainly mellowed, so while I may question some usage(s) I am now more interested in how they came about rather than proving them "wrong".
This mellowing has also been helped along by two young graduates who now delight in picking up on any slips by "the old grammar nazi" who guided them through their formative years.
:-))

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I've just read the question again, and realised I'd misread this thread the first time, assuming that someone was objecting to impact as a verb, as some people do nowadays. I'd never heard of anybody objecting the other way.

I do think his topic shows beautifully how silly these arguments are. Until recently many of us have only known 'impact' as a noun and so some see its use as a verb as some sort of '"ghastly verbification". Now it turns out that its existence as a verb is nearly two hundred years older than that as a noun.

Apparently, forty years or so ago, criticism was mainly directed at the noun, not for its existence as such, but for its figurative use, which we probably take for granted nowadays, but which so offended joshelson (but that was back in 2006). Impact, action etc as verbs don't bother me much, but I have to confess I don't much care for the -ise/ize family, verbs like prioritise, incentivise etc. In a generation or so, however, they'll no doubt be wondering what all the fuss was about.

MWDEU - http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&a...

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Noisenet - I'd say you were right, not your professor. Yes, it's true that people use gender to refer to people nowadays but traditionally gender is a grammarian's word that refers to words. In many languages - not, thank God, English - words have gender. People have sex. (When they're lucky).

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A propos of 'verbing', you may have heard of the game 'buzzword bingo', there is even an app for it. Well, Stan Carey at Sentence First, has produced a 'Usage Peeve Bingo' card, with all the old favourites - verbing, whom, singular they, the position of only (as in - He only died last week), over = more than, etc.

http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/usage...

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@WW
During my career in IT we had a similar thing going at a couple of companies where I was employed.
During meetings we would keep a score of buzzwords, initialisms, acronyms, etc.
Strangely enough we rarely recorded more than one WADR at any meeting; probably because the meeting would normally descend into chaos when the phrase following the WADR was pronounced.

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Errr, he has things backwards. A lot of people have problems with impact as *a verb*. There is zero controversy about its usage as a noun. This is honestly one reason I hate prescriptivism; it's proponents often have little idea what they're talking about.

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@Anthony123 - Yes, some people have problems with "impact" as a verb now, but there was an earlier controversy in the 1960s over its use as a noun to mean "effect" etc. At that time some people thought it should be limited to the meaning of something physically hitting something, so they didn't like uses such as - "This will have a significant impact on the economy".

See Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage - http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&a...

But I do agree with the second half of your comment.

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@Anthony123 - Sorry, that link doesn't work any more. The publishers must have changed their policy, which is a great shame, as I and others have often used it as a reference in these pages. Here's another that should give you the picture (until they get round to restricting this one too). It was referred to in my original MWDEU link:

http://books.google.pl/books?id=w8nH2APfNGMC&am...

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This history professor may well have suffered the damaging impact of a brick hitting his head, so I think we should treat him with the appropriate mix of understanding and disdain.

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