Which of the verbs discriminate/differ or any other similar verb seems more natural and professional in this sentence?

We focus on the approach itself, why it is an appropriate solution, and how it discriminates/differs from other solutions.

  • 1
    We can discriminate X from Y or discriminate between X and Y, but a solution cannot "discriminate from other solutions". discriminate does not mean "to be different" but to identify differences.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 18:40
  • So what can I use?
    – Shayan
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 18:44
  • I think "differs" is fine; you can also say "..., and how distinct it is from the other solutions."
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


As Tᴚoɯɐuo mentions in his comment, you use "discriminate" incorrectly in your example.

Discriminate (transitive verb): to mark or perceive the distinguishing or peculiar features of : to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences : to recognize or identify as separate and distinct

Something can discriminate between two things, for example:

His tastes were supposedly so refined that, from a single sip, he could discriminate between whiskeys from different Scottish distilleries.

"Discriminate" is not synonymous with "differ". "Differ" means "to be different from," while discriminate meets "to distinguish the difference between."

Although they say these two whiskeys differ, I can't discriminate between them.

In your example "differ" would be correct, although you can change it to use "discriminate":

We focus on the approach itself, why it is an appropriate solution, and how you can discriminate our solution from other solutions.

However "distinguish" sounds better than "discriminate" here, so I wouldn't recommend this.

Note also that "discriminate" has a secondary, often negative, meaning:

Discriminate (intransitive verb): to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit


In the United States it is illegal for most businesses to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, or ethnicity. In most states it is also illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, marital status, sexual orientation, and physical ability.

The CEO of the company was recently forced to resign amidst accusations that he discriminates against women.

Because discriminate has this second, negative meaning, you have to be careful not to imply the wrong thing when using it. For this reason other words like "distinguish" or "differentiate" may be better.

  • -100 for using whiskey with Scotch. We discriminate with different spellings ;)
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 19:47
  • Just to quibble, "discriminate" in general means to identify differences between things. Someone who "discriminates based on race" is making a distinction between two things: people of different races. So it's really the same meaning. The distinction -- if we can discriminate it! -- is that sometimes discrimination is positive and sometimes it is negative. If I am hiring someone to do a job, I am expected to discriminate based on job skill, but not based on race.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 21:16
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Isn't "whiskey" an Anglicization of the Gaelic * uisge beatha* though? So "Scotch whiskey" is actually redundant.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 22:11
  • @Jay I agree with you in the abstract, however in practice it may be useful to think of these as separate definitions to be used in different contexts. Plus there are distinctions in the adjective forms, for example, a "discriminating practice" vs. a "discriminatory practice".
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 22:26
  • mensjournal.com/food-drink/drinks/…
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 9:30

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