Distinguish vs Differentiate vs Discriminate
The important thing to remember about all three of these words is that they are interchangeable. They all express difference between a group of objects or people.
The thing is, the three can also be used in ways that suggest a positive or negative tone. This will help you to sound more like a native speaker!
Difference between Since & For - MyEnglishTeacher.eu
I’ll try to explain…
[Tweet “Distinguish – different from a group of very similar things usually in a positive way because of unique features or traits“]
When something is distinguished, it is different from a group of very similar things usually in a positive way because of unique features or traits.
- His large moustache distinguished him from the rest of the group.
Because he has a large moustache, it is easier to see him in a crowd or group of people.
- It was hard to tell which brother was which! They wore the same clothes, had the same hair and sounded the same! None of them had any distinguishable features!
The brothers all look very similar because they have the same characteristics. It’s very hard to tell them apart.
[Tweet “Discriminate against something or someone – the person or object is treated differently to the rest of the group usually in a negative way”]
When someone discriminates against something or someone, they are saying that the person or object is treated differently to the rest of the group usually in a negative way.
- This new law discriminates against foreigners
The law is unfair because it makes foreigners suffer while the rest of the country don’t suffer.
- Racist groups discriminate against people based on somebody’s ethnic group or origin.
People who are racist unfairly judge others just because of things like where they were born or the colour of their skin.
[Tweet “Differentiate – recognise or understand what makes (someone or something) different.”]
Differentiate is the most general term of the three. Distinguish and discriminate are examples of differentiation.
Confusing, right? Wait a second!
Differentiate is the most neutral of these three terms. It can always be used positively or negatively.
So, if you are in doubt over whether you should use discriminate or distinguish, go for differentiate!
- The business tried to differentiate to gain an advantage over its competitors
The business wants to be different to other similar businesses because if it isn’t, the customer might not choose their service.
- The teacher differentiates his students by thinking of which parents are his friends.
The teacher is being unfair to students by thinking about his relationship with their parents. This has nothing to do with students and could lead to the teacher treating them better or worse.
Phew! I hope this helps!