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    #1

    factor

    What exactly is the difference between 'reason', 'cause' and 'factor'?

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    #2

    Re: factor

    There's a lot of overlap in the usage of these three words. Specific circumstances may narrow the choice down to two or even one of the three.

    First question is; are we talking about why did something happen or are we asking why or how did someone make a choice to either do something or make a selection?

    There would not really be a reason something happened (though you may see or hear this usage). Occurrences result from causes and certain things may be factors leading to that cause. 'Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the automobile accident.'

    The accident was caused by the driver losing control of his vehicle.
    Alcohol was (believed to be) a factor- one of the things that led to the driver losing control, but probably not the only factor.
    The driver had a reason (though not a good reason) to drink and then try to drive.

    People make decisions based on reasons- they use their logic to reach a conclusion. Sometimes the word reason is also used to describe some logical cause for an occurrence. 'There's a reason why grass is green.'

    This is a common usage, but in my opinion, not really the best usage. Green grass is not green because of my logical mind. Grass color is caused by chemical properties in the plants that react with light in a way that is then perceived by my brain as having the property of 'green-ness'.

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    #3

    Re: factor

    This is off the track, but let me ask.

    Quote Originally Posted by J&K Tutoring View Post
    First question is; are we talking about why did something happen or are we asking why or how did someone make a choice to either do something or make a selection?.
    Why is it 'why did something happen/how did someone make a choice', not 'why something happened/how someone made a choice', when those are the noun-clauses?

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    #4

    Re: factor

    are we talking about why did something happen or are we asking why or how did someone make a choice to either do something or make a selection?.

    Okay, I understand your confusion. My mind was on the philosophical/semantic concept and I lost track of the grammatical construction- sorry about that!

    The origin of the confusion is, I believe, in the phrase 'are we talking about...'. Maybe a better way to say it is, 'Is the question...' as in: Is the question, 'Why did something happen?' or is it, 'Why or how did someone make a choice to either do something or make a selection?'

    'A reason' has to do with a conscious, human choice after mentally considering alternatives or working through possibilities using logic (however faulty).
    'Cause' has to do with forces more-or-less external to the system under consideration. Action(s) and inactions have results.
    'A Factor' is any one of a number of external stimuli- either mental or physical- that influence the outcome.

    I hope this helps to clear things up.
    Last edited by J&K Tutoring; 28-Mar-2012 at 15:05.

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    #5

    Re: factor

    Quote Originally Posted by J&K Tutoring View Post
    are we talking about why did something happen or are we asking why or how did someone make a choice to either do something or make a selection?.

    Okay, I understand your confusion. My mind was on the philosophical/semantic concept and I lost track of the grammatical construction- sorry about that!
    Just out of curiosity, do even native speakers sometimes make such mistakes?

    I thought only learners of English, beginners in particular, would make such mistakes.

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    #6

    Re: factor

    Of course! One of the things I try to get my students to understand is that, in any language, there are many possibilities for confusion and often a need for clarification. Language is one of the crudest tools man has ever developed.

    The people who respond to these inquiries are volunteering their spare time to answer questions. Of course we should be careful to edit our responses for clarity, perfect grammar, and spelling, but the reality is that we are in a hurry sometimes and the balance between a quick response and careful editing gets skewed in favor of the quick response.

    Sometimes I'll have just a few minutes to look at the questions and I'll find a juicy one like yours, so I want to post a reply. Then I get into it and find that writing a clear and concise response takes longer than I thought, so things get a bit rushed.

    You are perfectly right to ask for clarification on this point!

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