October 15, 2009

Prescribe vs Proscribe



COULD you explain the difference between proscribe and prescribe and how to use both words in sentences? – Naentikaur, Seremban, Malaysia.

To prescribe is to advise or recommend someone to do something, or to impose something authoritatively.

A doctor can prescribe a certain medicine for you (recommend that you take it) by writing you a prescription for it (i.e. its name and details of how you should take it), to be given to a pharmacist.

In addition, he may prescribe (advise) that you take some exercise, e.g. a brisk walk for half an hour daily, for your general health.

When a law prescribes something, it means it imposes something authoritatively on everyone in the country. For example, in certain countries, the law prescribes that parents are responsible for the actions of their non-adult children. So if their children do something against the law, the parents are taken to court and tried.

To proscribe something, on the other hand, means to forbid something through the law of a country, or regulations of certain bodies.

For example, athletes taking part in Olympic games are proscribed from taking certain drugs to improve their performance.

As the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1995) points out, it is important to see the difference between prescribed drugs (recommended by a doctor) and proscribed drugs (banned substances).

Correct tense

Please let me know if the following sentences are correct: 1) Suddenly, they saw a blind man trying to cross the busy road OR Suddenly, they saw a blind man was trying to cross the busy road 2) Suresh and Rizal helped the blind man crossed the road OR Suresh and Rizal helped the blind man cross the road. – Rohanee

1) The correct sentence is the first sentence: “Suddenly, they saw a blind man trying to cross the busy road.”

2) The correct sentence is the second sentence: “Suresh and Rizal helped the blind man cross the road.”

The verb “helped” has already indicated the tense, and the verb after that, i.e. “cross” should be in the base form.

Youth or youths

I keep reading in your newspaper about ‘Youths”.

Surely the plural form is “youth”? – Roland K Selvanayagam

Not always. While “youth” can mean young people taken collectively, it can also mean a young person, especially a male one (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed.). In the latter sense, the plural of “youth” is “youths”, as can be seen in the following excerpts from the Internet:

French youths fired at police and burned over 300 cars last night as towns around Paris experienced their worst night of violence in a week of urban unrest.

A 15-year-old boy has been rushed to hospital with a stab wound in the chest after a brawl involving 200 youths in Melbourne’s west on Friday night.

Close, closes, closed

Which of the following sentences is correct?

1. Our centre is close on Sunday.

2. Our centre is closed on Sunday.

3. Our centre closes on Sunday. – Karen

Sentence 2 is the best one. Sentence 1 is grammatically incorrect, while sentence 3 might give the impression that your centre may not open again after Sunday.