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    #1

    Atone a crime

    Hi,

    I was wondering if the following is accurate English. The discussion was about the death penalty in the USA and the person who wrote the sentence below wanted to express that if the states kills a convict it would equal an eye for an eye mentality, which she was clearly not in favour of. So what she wrote was:

    "You cannot atone a crime by committing another one."

    Is that correct English?

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Atone a crime

    It's not how I'm used to seeing "atone" used. "You cannot atone for a crime... " is what I'd expect. Exept it's the person who did it who atones, not the state. I wonder if the writer meant "avenge"? It also would have read better as "... for one crime, while... another."
    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.

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    #3

    Re: Atone a crime

    Thank you.
    If "avenge" is used instead of "atone" would a sentence like "You cannot avenge a crime by committing another (one)" be okay? Or would it still sound better with "while" as you suggested instead of "by"?
    Also, how about "one"? "... committing another" or "... committing another ONE"?

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    #4

    Re: Atone a crime

    Quote Originally Posted by Sydney68 View Post
    Thank you.
    If "avenge" is used instead of "atone" would a sentence like "You cannot avenge a crime by committing another (one)" be okay? Or would it still sound better with "while" as you suggested instead of "by"?
    Also, how about "one"? "... committing another" or "... committing another ONE"?
    "You cannot avenge a crime by committing another" is fine.

  3. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Atone a crime

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    "You cannot avenge a crime by committing another" is fine.
    I don't agree, ems, to me avenge means taking some kind of aggressive retribution. If somebody says "I'm going to avenge my friends murder", for example, I would take it to mean them finding and killing the murderer.

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    #6

    Re: Atone a crime

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    I don't agree, ems, to me avenge means taking some kind of aggressive retribution. If somebody says "I'm going to avenge my friends murder", for example, I would take it to mean them finding and killing the murderer.
    Yes, exactly. Arresting, charging and sentencing a killer to the death penalty is effectively "finding and killing the murderer". Opponents of the death penalty say that killing a second person (ie the murderer) does not avenge the death - it is simply lowering oneself to the level of the murderer.

    I think we can safely say that the death penalty would be considered "aggressive retribution". Wouldn't you?

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    #7

    Re: Atone a crime

    I think that one of the problems we have here is the original stament: "You cannot atone a crime by committing another one."

    Only the the person who commited a crime can atone for it, so that is clearly not the verb we want. If the speaker wished "to express that if the states kills a convict it would equal an eye for an eye mentality" then 'avenge' would be appear to be appropriate - except that in the USA and some other countries, the feeling appears to be that you can avenge a crime in this way.

    The speaker is, I think, trying to say that two wrongs don't make a right, that one crime does not justify another, but has not managed it.

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    #8

    Re: Atone a crime

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I think that one of the problems we have here is the original stament: "You cannot atone a crime by committing another one."

    Only the the person who commited a crime can atone for it, so that is clearly not the verb we want. If the speaker wished "to express that if the states kills a convict it would equal an eye for an eye mentality" then 'avenge' would be appear to be appropriate - except that in the USA and some other countries, the feeling appears to be that you can avenge a crime in this way.

    The speaker is, I think, trying to say that two wrongs don't make a right, that one crime does not justify another, but has not managed it.
    Absolutely. "You can't atone a crime ..." doesn't make any sense at all, but as we'd moved on to using "avenge", I used that for my example.

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    #9

    Re: Atone a crime

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Yes, exactly. Arresting, charging and sentencing a killer to the death penalty is effectively "finding and killing the murderer". Opponents of the death penalty say that killing a second person (ie the murderer) does not avenge the death - it is simply lowering oneself to the level of the murderer.

    I think we can safely say that the death penalty would be considered "aggressive retribution". Wouldn't you?
    Yes, I would, but saying "you cannot avenge a crime by committing another one" is wrong because that's precisely what you do. If you avenge a crime, you commit another one.
    Last edited by bhaisahab; 12-Feb-2012 at 23:07.

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    #10

    Re: Atone a crime

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I think that one of the problems we have here is the original stament: "You cannot atone a crime by committing another one."

    Only the the person who commited a crime can atone for it, so that is clearly not the verb we want. If the speaker wished "to express that if the states kills a convict it would equal an eye for an eye mentality" then 'avenge' would be appear to be appropriate - except that in the USA and some other countries, the feeling appears to be that you can avenge a crime in this way.

    The speaker is, I think, trying to say that two wrongs don't make a right, that one crime does not justify another, but has not managed it.
    It's nothing to do with vengeance. It has to do with deterrence and the protection of society from its worst elements.

    Perhaps we need something like "expunge" or "reverse." The sentiment being expressed, I think, is that executing a murderer doesn't bring his victims back to life.

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