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    #1

    Observe

    I have a question about the usage of the verb "observe". There are two definitions of the verb "observe" at issue:

    -1.1 Watch (someone or something) carefully and attentively

    -2.2 Perform or take part in (a rite or ceremony)

    If I write this:

    "They observed the ground-breaking ceremony."

    Is the sentence ambiguous because both def 1.1 and 2.2 would work?
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 04-Jul-2015 at 22:10. Reason: Removed unnecessary line breaks

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    #2

    Re: Observe

    **** I am not a teacher ****

    Yes. Without context, we won't know which one of the two it means. (Although, I would hope that 2.2 includes 1.1, otherwise in the context of ground-breaking, it could be dangerous. ).

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    #3

    Re: Observe

    It's unlikely that the second meaning is meant here IMO. I would use the second meaning for standard, proper rituals like funerals.

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    #4

    Re: Observe

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    It's unlikely that the second meaning is meant here IMO. I would use the second meaning for standard, proper rituals like funerals.
    I stand corrected.

    For ground-breaking, is it better to say "They performed the ground-breaking ceremony"?

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    #5

    Re: Observe

    That's OK, or had/held, but observe, at least to me, suggests that they were following something like a rite, with a format set out to follow. I know ground-breaking ceremonies tend to be similar, but that is not like ritual.

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Observe

    I agree. I don't see any ambiguity there.

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    #7

    Re: Observe

    I'd agree with Tdol - if you're using the definition of 2.2 for observe, then it's referring to something ritualistic or traditional.

    For example, we speak of observing the Sabbath, observing a particular holiday, observing a particular custom. They carry the meaning of participating in, but also convey some sense of following a custom, tradition, ritual, etc.

    Besides, while there may be a crowd watching a groundbreaking ceremony, there are usually only a few people who actually participate - generally the business/company owner or representative, and some kind of government/state/city official. Maybe one or two other representatives from other entities involved.

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