Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Adverse or averse?

with 6 comments

A study of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Gordon Bryan...
Image via Wikipedia

Look at this extract from a piece on BBC Northern Ireland’s website about The Divine Comedy’s frontman, Neil Hannon:

Hannon is not adverse to referencing literature in his song writing. ‘Bernice bobs her hair’ refers to an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story.

And this from the UK newspaper, the Guardian:

Lots of indie bands – from the Smiths to Smog – have propped up playful choruses with howling off-key rugrats, and hip hop’s not adverse to using this trick either.

And this from the UK Newspaper, The Times:

However, given that investors are inherently adverse to uncertainty…

In all of these cases, ‘adverse to’ should be ‘averse to’.

‘Averse’ (usually used with ‘to’ as in ‘averse to’) means ‘having a strong dislike of or objection to’.

‘Adverse’ means ‘harmful or unfavourable’. For example:

We expect adverse weather conditions.

See Oxford Dictionaries on the confusion between ‘adverse’ and ‘averse’.

Commonly confused and just plain wrong



6 Responses

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  1. This is not a particularly brilliant insight, but it seems to me that, because the words are so similar in spelling and pronunciation as well as both having a negative connotation, confusing them is understandable.

    Maggie Manning

    21/05/2010 at 5:46 pm

    • Hi, Maggie — yes, I think you’re absolutely right. Another little quirk of the English language to trip up the unwary!


      21/05/2010 at 5:49 pm

  2. And what do we learn from this – newspapers need to have their proof-readers back. On the other hand, as long as they fail I feel a lot better. 🙂


    21/05/2010 at 6:20 pm

    • Hi, there — you’re very welcome and thanks for taking the time to comment! I like your second point — good fodder for the blog as well.


      21/05/2010 at 6:34 pm

      • Oh, right! On that note – no more proof-reading for newspapers.

        And yes, thanks for this blog. I’m a non-native speaker with a big kink for language so for me your posts are absolutely fascinating.


        21/05/2010 at 9:54 pm

        • Hi — I’m glad you enjoy them. Thank you for your kind words which I very much appreciate.


          22/05/2010 at 7:42 am

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