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  1. #1
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    Default What's the difference between 'represent' & 'indicate'

    I found something pretty odd today. I found in Webster dictionary the definition of represent that includes a sense 'serve as a sign or symbol of', as in 'the flag that represents our country'. The definition of the word 'indicate' includes a similar sense, as in 'the high fever indicates a serious condition'. So I thought they'd very likely be synonyms, at least in this sense.
    And I started looking up thesaurus to see if I was right. To my great surprise, they were not synonyms at all in Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus, the Collins Cobuild, and several other thesauruses. It seems that there are two distinct groups of synonyms derived from them respectively. On the 'indicate' side, there are 'indicate', 'show', 'mark', 'signify', 'imply', 'reveal', etc. On the other, there are 'represent', 'mean', 'symbolize', 'embody', 'denote', etc. And even weird is the fact that none of each group seems to contain members of the other (according to Webster and Cobuild).
    So here's the question: why are they so different in meaning when, in fact,

    Wait! Maybe it's because the word 'represent' connotes a sense of passiveness, where 'indicate' is active? Maybe 'A represents B' is similar to 'A is seen as a symbol of B' , while 'A indicates B' suggests that A is pointing out B as if A is a human?

    Any reply'd be fully appreciated.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: What's the difference between 'represent' & 'indicate'

    You've got the idea- 'indicate' means 'shows evidence of' or 'points towards', so it cannot be used in the flag example, IMO.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: What's the difference between 'represent' & 'indicate'

    Thank you very much ^_*

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