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  1. #1
    crazyaboutenglish is offline Junior Member
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    Nonsense or Nonsensical

    Can someone tell me when I use "nonsense" and when I use "nonsensical"?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Nonsense or Nonsensical

    Quote Originally Posted by crazyaboutenglish View Post
    Can someone tell me when I use "nonsense" and when I use "nonsensical"?

    Thanks
    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    CrazyaboutEnglish,


    (1) I, too, wish to know the answer.

    (2) So I cannot give you the answer.

    (3) I have only two suggestions:

    (a) Please google "Corpus of Contemporary American

    English." It gives sentences in which a particular word has been

    used.

    (i) When you get there, type in "nonsense." I believe that there are

    more than 3,000 sentences with that word.

    (ii) Do the same for "nonsensical." I believe that there are about

    300 uses of the word.

    (As you can see, "nonsense" seems to be more frequently used by

    Americans than "nonsensical.")

    (b) One other thing:

    In American English, never say something like: That is a nonsense.

    Some of our British friends use the indefinite article, but I believe that

    Americans rarely do so.

    (4) Sorry that I could not give you more help, but this website tells us non-teachers

    to be very careful before answering learners' questions. I hope that

    someone will soon tell you and me the difference between the two

    words.

  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Nonsense or Nonsensical

    At a simplistic level,one might observe that 'nonsense' is usually a noun and 'nonsensical' is always an adjective. The trouble with this is that the noun 'nonsense' can be (and is frequently) used in the position of an attributive adjective - especially in collocations such as 'nonsense verse'.

    Also, any distinction between 'That is nonsense' and 'That is nonsensical' is very very slight; in effect the meanings are identical:
    • noun: 'The thing you are saying has the noun complement nonsense'.
    • adj: 'It is characteristic of what you have said that it is nonsensical


    My feeling is that 'nonsense' is more widely used, and with less precision. If something is nonsense, then it's just vaguely somewhere in the realm of what is silly/stupid/pointless...; but when you describe something as nonsensical you are saying that it lacks sense. But as TP said, the best thing to do is probably to check in a corpus.

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 27-Feb-2011 at 14:28.

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Nonsense or Nonsensical

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    At a simplistic level,one might observe that 'nonsense' is usually a noun and 'nonsensical' is always an adjective. The trouble with this is that the noun 'nonsense' can be (and is frequently) used in the position of an attributive adjective - especially in collocations such as 'nonsense verse'.


    Also, any distinction between 'That is nonsense' and 'That is nonsensical' is very very slight; in effect the meanings are identical:
    • noun: 'The thing you are saying has the noun complement nonsense'.
    • adj: 'It is characteristic of what you have said that it is nonsensical

    My feeling is that 'nonsense' is more widely used, and with less precision. If something is nonsense, then it's just vaguely somewhere in the realm of what is silly/stupid/pointless...; but when you describe something as nonsensical you are saying that it lacks sense. But as TP said, the best thing to do is probably to check in a corpus.

    b

    Which word would you use in this sentence:

    Country X is currently conducting a ______ war in country Y.

    I notice that both words are used.

    Which is more "correct"?

  5. #5
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Re: Nonsense or Nonsensical

    I suggest when nonsense is used adjectivally, it's after the noun.

    That idea was nonsense.
    NOT: That was a nonsense idea.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  6. #6
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Nonsense or Nonsensical

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I suggest when nonsense is used adjectivally, it's after the noun.

    That idea was nonsense.
    NOT: That was a nonsense idea.
    With 'idea', I agree. I imagine people could (informally) use it - on the analogy - of expressions like 'that was a rubbish idea' or even very very informally, and somewhat indecorously , 'that was a cr*p idea'. I've recently heard 'Do you think my idea is pants?'. Nouns get everywhere!

    b

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