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I have attempted an English test, where a question was given as

Following the students’ ______, the authorities have finally_______ the rule of having CCTV’s in the classroom.

And the options were given as

Protests, abolished

Agitations, rescind

Agitations, abolish

Agitations, rescinded

I thought both the first and fourth options can be right here but the test claims fourth option as an answer but first option as wrong answer.

Aren't they mean same? Or is there any difference between those two verbs?

I've looked up dictionary and these two words are given as synonyms to each other. So, either of the two options can fit here.

But the explanation is given as "we choose rescinded because it means to cancel a law or rule and thus fits the context. Abolish means to formally put an end to a system or institution or practice. So, it doesn't fit here"

Please explain to me if there is any difference and tell me whether the explanation given by the test is right or not.

  • Is agitations the right word? Can we eliminate that pair because of it? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 29 '16 at 12:42
  • @TRomano So, do you mean Agitations is wrong here? – Omkar Reddy Sep 29 '16 at 12:56
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It is a difficult question involving the meaning of these terms throughout the English-speaking world. The distinction between agitations and protests is clearer, IMO, than that between abolished and rescinded, when viewed across all dialects of English. If you check ngram for frequency, "abolished the rule" occurs rather more frequently than "rescinded the rule", so abolish is clearly not incorrect even if rescinded is a viable option. On the other hand, agitations in much of the English-speaking world has connotations of disorder and unrest, even if, in India (per the Oxford Living Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/agitation) it may lack such connotations and may mean simply a public demonstration.

P.S. To my ear, if the examiners are going to have you choose between protests/abolished and agitations/rescinded, they should also be aware of the clunkiness of "the rule of having" which would be better as "the rule requiring...".

  • But google ngram viewer also didn't show any results for abolished the rule. Could you please share the link? – Omkar Reddy Sep 29 '16 at 14:33
  • @Ganesh.R - "Abolish" isn't completely wrong, but "rescind" is "more right". Abolish means something more like "permanently end an institution or practice", like "The nation abolished slavery in 1877" or "After the resignation of King Harald, the monarchy was abolished." Rescind means more specifically "to repeal a law, a regulation, or an order", so it's a closer fit for what's meant. – stangdon Sep 29 '16 at 14:35
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    @Ganesh.R - Also, I don't know how you were searching Ngrams, but yes, it does show results for abolished the rule: books.google.com/ngrams/… – stangdon Sep 29 '16 at 14:35
  • @stangdon Sorry. Something wrong with my search – Omkar Reddy Sep 29 '16 at 14:52
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    @Ganesh.R - You can always try, but I wouldn't expect them to reconsider their decision, given that rescind looks like a better choice than abolish. (But then again, I think protests works better than agitations, so I don't think any of the choices is very good.) – stangdon Sep 29 '16 at 16:52
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Rescind X means "to make a previously issued law, decree, or order X void." - it's equivalent to cancel X.

Abolish X means "to get rid of X entirely" - X usually being a phenomenon or something that is not physical and not a law, decree, or order. Examples: "I'm going to abolish poverty, slavery, hunger, his resistance."

You don't usually abolish a law but you might abolish something the law allowed with a new law.

  • So, do you mean first option is completely wrong here? – Omkar Reddy Sep 29 '16 at 20:16
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    Rules aren't laws and they are not physical, so yeah, they can be abolished. – LawrenceC Sep 30 '16 at 12:55
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The option 4 is right fitted here.

Abolish: Put an end to
Rescind: Put an end to (a law or agreement) officially.

Hence, rescind has the most close meaning for your English test question.

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