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    refrain/abstain usage

    From my experience 'refrain' is more widely used. Am I right here? How's about them being archaic, formal, bombastic? Do they both carry the meaning of fighting one's own needs?

    • Join Date: Dec 2009
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    Re: refrain/abstain usage

    (Not a teacher)

    I would say 'abstain' has a moral connotation; that the person is doing it for moral/religious/spiritual reasons, or that the thing the person is abstaining from is bad to that person. 'Abstinance' generally refers to abstaining from sex, although it can be used for anything. I wouldn't say abstain is any more formal than refrain.

    There is a slight difference in meaning. One can refrain from saying something. One cannot abstain from saying something.

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