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  1. #1
    JoanneWang is offline Newbie
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    MS

    Hi, can anyone tell me the difference between "impulsive" and "spontaneous"? I have checked them in the dictionary but both seem to mean "doing something without thinking or planning". Can any teacher help me with some examples?
    From learner Joanne

  2. #2
    mayita1usa's Avatar
    mayita1usa is offline Member
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    Re: MS

    Quote Originally Posted by JoanneWang View Post
    Hi, can anyone tell me the difference between "impulsive" and "spontaneous"? I have checked them in the dictionary but both seem to mean "doing something without thinking or planning".
    Welcome, Joanne!

    These are some very general comments and ideas about these two words:

    Impulsive tends to imply that the person is acting without control, that he/she can't stop from doing whatever it is. It comes from the word "impulse", which in this case could be a sudden burst of energy, desire, emotion, anger, etc. It often (although not always) has a more negative connotation. Example:
    - My son's impulsive behavior is getting him into trouble at school.

    Spontaneous is very similar, but it carries more the idea of doing something without planning it, and usually has a more positive connotation:
    - We made a spontaneous decision to go to the beach for the weekend.

    Compare these two sentences:
    - He impulsively turned and kissed her. (To me, this means he couldn't control himself, even if he wanted to.)
    - He spontaneously turned and kissed her. (This time, he wanted to and he did it without stopping to think.)

    Other people will probably have other ideas, but I hope this helps!

  3. #3
    Khosro's Avatar
    Khosro is offline Senior Member
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    Re: MS

    Quote Originally Posted by JoanneWang View Post
    Hi, can anyone tell me the difference between "impulsive" and "spontaneous"? I have checked them in the dictionary but both seem to mean "doing something without thinking or planning". Can any teacher help me with some examples?
    From learner Joanne
    Mayita explained it well.

    Joanne, that's an interesting question for examining different dictionaries. Which dictionary did you look it up in?

    I looked up "impulsive" in Macmillan, Meriam-Webster, and Oxford.

    Macmillan (2003)
    1- Someone who is impulsive tends to do things without thinking about what will happen as a result
    2- Done suddenly without thinking What the result will be

    Oxford advanced learners (online)
    (of people or their behaviour) acting suddenly without thinking carefully about what might happen because of what you are doing

    Meriam-Webster (online)
    1- Doing things or tending to do things suddenly and without careful thought: acting or tending to act on impulse.
    2- Done suddenly and without planning: resulting from a sudden impulse.

    As you see none of them say anything about "planning" when it comes to "impulsive" but all emphasize on what might happen. Meriam-Webster also refers to "impulse" itself which is really usefull. I'd prefer Oxford and Webster to Macmillan in this case because they both mention "careful" and "carefully".

  4. #4
    mayita1usa's Avatar
    mayita1usa is offline Member
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    Re: MS

    Quote Originally Posted by Khosro View Post
    I looked up "impulsive" in Macmillan, Meriam-Webster, and Oxford.

    Macmillan (2003)
    1- Someone who is impulsive tends to do things without thinking about what will happen as a result
    2- Done suddenly without thinking What the result will be

    Oxford advanced learners (online)
    (of people or their behaviour) acting suddenly without thinking carefully about what might happen because of what you are doing

    Meriam-Webster (online)
    1- Doing things or tending to do things suddenly and without careful thought: acting or tending to act on impulse.
    2- Done suddenly and without planning: resulting from a sudden impulse.
    Thanks for this, Khosro!
    What all of these dictionaries have in common is the idea that impulsive = without thinking. When a person is spontaneous, on the other hand, they might think about something, but there is no planning involved.

    Thus, here is my very brief analysis:
    - impulsive = without thinking or planning
    - spontaneous = with a little bit of thinking, but definitely without planning

    Sorry to be repetetive, but compare these two sentences:
    - He impulsively turned and kissed her. (To me, this means he couldn't control himself, even if he wanted to: no planning, no thinking.)
    - He spontaneously turned and kissed her. (This time, he wanted to and so he did it without stopping to think - which definitely means he didn't plan it ahead of time.)

  5. #5
    Mehrgan's Avatar
    Mehrgan is offline Key Member
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    Re: MS

    Quote Originally Posted by mayita1usa View Post
    Thanks for this, Khosro!
    What all of these dictionaries have in common is the idea that impulsive = without thinking. When a person is spontaneous, on the other hand, they might think about something, but there is no planning involved.

    Thus, here is my very brief analysis:
    - impulsive = without thinking or planning
    - spontaneous = with a little bit of thinking, but definitely without planning

    Sorry to be repetetive, but compare these two sentences:
    - He impulsively turned and kissed her. (To me, this means he couldn't control himself, even if he wanted to: no planning, no thinking.)
    - He spontaneously turned and kissed her. (This time, he wanted to and so he did it without stopping to think - which definitely means he didn't plan it ahead of time.)

    That's indeed what they mean. With 'impulsive' there seems to be an irrisistible wish or even temptation to do or get something you come up against. Also remember that some shoppers behave so impulsivly!


    Cheers!

  6. #6
    Rover_KE is online now Moderator
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    Re: MS

    Joanne, please give your threads meaningful titles, such as Impulsive and spontaneous.

    I can't imagine what MS has to do with your question.

    Rover

  7. #7
    JoanneWang is offline Newbie
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    impulsive or spontaneous

    Hi, teachers. I am confused when to use "impulsive" and "spontaneous". i have checked them in the dictionary but both seem to mean "doing something without thinking or planning". Can teachers help me with some examples? From learner Joanne
    Last edited by JoanneWang; 17-Feb-2011 at 05:34.

  8. #8
    JMurray is offline Key Member
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    Re: impulsive or spontaneous

    I am confused when to use "impulsive" and "spontaneous". i have checked them in the dictionary but both seem to mean "doing something without thinking or planning".

    Joanne.
    In reference to people they can have very similar meanings, but "spontaneous" is most often used in a positive sense: "he's very spontaneous, so friendly, relaxed and uninhibited". "Impulsive" is often used in a negative sense: "he's very impulsive, acts on his emotions, doesn't think first, makes bad decisions".
    Spontaneous usually suggests genuine and amiable, while impulsive often suggests impetuous or reckless.

    not a teacher

  9. #9
    JoanneWang is offline Newbie
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    Re: impulsive or spontaneous

    Hi, JMurray. Thanks for you explanation. Just to confirm whether "an impetuous young woman" can also be expressed as "an impulsive young woman". As for "spontaneous", i am still confused how it is used to describe a person. Do i say "a spontaneous man" when i mean he is friendly or helpful? From Joanne.

  10. #10
    JoanneWang is offline Newbie
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    Re: MS

    Sorry for the confusing "MS" title in my posting. I thought the field of "Title" was to put in the other TITLE as Miss, Mrs or MS, etc. "How funny it is!" I really thought so when i put it in the field. But i have tried to correct it when i finally realised it by posting another one titled "Impulsive or Spontaneous".

    Thanks very much to all who are helping me to get the meaning of the two words. Please correct me at any time when i make mistakes in future postings. I really would like to know how native speakers talk. Thanks again. From learner Joanne.

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