While watching the news, I noticed a sentence in the headlines:

Coach of passenger train derails at Kanpur central in India, Who takes the responsibility?

This is the context.

Now my question is

  1. Who takes the responsibility?
  2. Who is responsible?
  3. Who is to blame?

Do the three sentences above carry the same meaning? Can they be used interchangeably?

  • Your last 4 questions have been closed, most of them by migration to ELL. You might consider asking your questions directly there; the risk is that more of your questions here are closed or downvoted (or both), the system will block you from asking any new questions, even ones which are topical for ELU. I'll tell you straight up that most "what's he difference?" questions do not fare well here.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 11:44
  • 1
    Among mainstream Anglophones #1 would nearly always be Who takes responsibility? Including the article is just about credible, but it smacks of "Indian English" to me. Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


In American English, I would expect the question to be "Who takes responsibility?" (without the "the").

This use of "responsibility" has three similar -- but slightly different -- meanings:

  1. "Who takes the blame?" (In other words, who admits that the derailment might not have happened if they had done something different? And admits that they should have done something different?)
  2. "Who promises to do something to make things right for the victims?" (Even if the train operator "takes the blame", he probably cannot afford to pay for a train and lots of people's medical bills. So often a company, or a rich person, or the government "takes responsibility".)
  3. "Who promises to make this sort of thing less likely to happen in the future?" (Even if the train operator "takes the blame", he probably cannot make sure that other train operators avoid the same "mistake". So often a company or the government "takes steps to improve safety practices".)

"Who is responsible?" can mean:

  1. "Who is to blame?" (Whether or not they accept the blame.)
  2. "Who should do something to make things right for the victims?" (Whether or not they promise to.)
  3. "Who has a chance to make this less likely to happen in the future?" (Whether or not they promise to try.)
  4. "If someone were sued in court, whom might the courts find legally responsible?" In other words, whom might the courts say is to blame? Or whom might the courts order to pay for the damage?
  • Good answer. There might be a #5. It can refer to a person or agency invested with responsibility in advance from a perspective of management, oversight, etc. They might have no direct involvement in the accident, but their job description or mandate gives them generic responsibility. It could be related to #3, but they may actually have little control over future events. Could be "ceremonial" responsibility or preassigned scapegoat.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 3:56

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