The building has been derelict for years; several sections of the roof have fallen in.

Is it all right to use derelict in above sentence or it's incorrect and forsaken is better ? Perhaps abandoned would have been better but I don't have that to choose from as this is a question asked in my exam with just the options which I have mentioned above.

  • 2
    Derelict is the word I would use. It is used particularly for abandoned/uncared for/unmaintained buildings, see here for example. – SteveES Jun 23 '17 at 14:07
  • 1
    @user212388 What do you find when you check the dictionary? For me, "derelict" and "abandoned" are about equally good. (For "derelict", the second half of the sentence would be illustrating the first, whereas for "abandoned", the second half of the sentence would be noting the consequence of the first.) "Forsaken" is very poetic/literary. Even in the 21st century the primary association for most English speakers is probably the Bible verse Matthew 27:46. – Luke Sawczak Jun 23 '17 at 14:22

Let's examine:

  • derelict (adjective) - Derelict buildings or places are not cared for and are in bad condition
  • abandoned (adjective) - Left behind, or left without care and protection.
  • abandon (verb) - To leave a place, thing, or person, usually for ever
  • forsaken (adjective) - A place that is not lived in, used, or looked after.

Both words share a common meaning "forsaken, given up by the natural owner or guardian". However, "derelict" is very close to something like "In a very poor condition as a result of disuse and abandonment/neglect" while "abandoned" is closer to "left empty or uninhabited"

A building can be derelict and abandoned altogether.

In your example you say that 'several sections of the roof have fallen in' so in this case it can surely be derelict but is it abandoned? Outside of the question's options in a case where it would be abandoned because of being in a poor condition it would we wise to include both words in the sentence:

  • The derelict building has been abandoned for years; several sections of the roof have fallen in.

However, as you have mentioned that you have only two options, I'd go for "derelict".


For some reason this use of "derelict" feels off to me. I would prefer to use "abandoned", but I'm not certain why. It may be due to what Luke Sawczak points out in his comment, that a "derelict" building is, by definition, falling apart, making the rest of the sentence redundant. "Abandoned" simply means no one lives there, and so it's a natural consequence that the roof has fallen in.

But I think it's more the use of "has been" in the example, which suggests you meant to use the present perfect progressive. You can't "derelict" something, but you can "abandon" it, so "has been abandoned" sounds somewhat more natural to my ears.

Also, an abandoned building can be quickly reoccupied, but a derelict building needs to be repaired before it can go back to not being derelict. To some extent, the present perfect suggests a condition that could have easily changed any time, and a building can't easily go back and forth between "derelict" and "not derelict".

Perhaps this is just my personal (or American) style, and others have no problem with this use of "derelict". Given no other options, it's fine, and better than "forsaken" (which I've never heard applied to a building).

  • I lean towards abandoned as well, though I don't think it's because the tense risks suggesting a passive. I think it's because it's hard to identify the moment from which something "has been derelict", but easy to pinpoint the moment from which it "has been abandoned". Also, for forsaken and buildings, we can't rule out poorly written fantasy MMORPGs. ;) – Luke Sawczak Jun 23 '17 at 15:19
  • 2
    @userr2684291 if you look at your Google results you'll notice many of the results are from UK sources. I'm American, so that could account for my intuition. – Andrew Jun 23 '17 at 15:51
  • 1
    @SovereignSun or even "a forsaken playground". Really anything that evokes a strong image – Andrew Jun 23 '17 at 17:04
  • 1
    @Andrew I agree. Something so simple as a building can't be forsaken. – SovereignSun Jun 23 '17 at 17:08
  • 1
    @SovereignSun Pedestrian, that's the word I was looking for. You would not apply "forsaken" to something as pedestrian as a "building". At the very least you'd want to call it a "derelict structure" :) – Andrew Jun 23 '17 at 20:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.