Please help me to use diminish word properly. For example, consider the way I have used this word in the sentences below. How wrong or right they are? Should I have used a synonym instead?

  1. Our sugar storage has diminished.
  2. Our hope has diminished.
  3. Please diminish its consistency/your voice(volume).
  4. The flooding has diminished in our area.

(Is it OK if, from time to time, I send this kind of questions here?)

  • 2
    Since you asked, I'll offer my opinion. I have no problem with this sort of question. Clearly, you have looked up the word and you know what it means, and now you're asking if you're using it correctly in some good example sentences (in this case, sentences with uncountable nouns, which makes this a rather challenging question to answer). I think the question might be improved a little by asking, "If not, can you explain why not?" (I think that's implied here, but you may want to ask that explicitly next time; that why part is what makes ELL questions hard, instead of general reference)
    – J.R.
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:42
  • @ J.R Thank you very much. I will use your tips in my future posts.
    – user3214
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:57
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    You might also want to paste a dictionary definition into the question, too, to demonstrate that you've looked up the word, and for everyone else to get a better idea of what you think the word means. (Some people think that's redundant, but, given that one user has already – wrongly, I think – denounced that you're making up your own sentences, perhaps this can serve as a signpost demonstrating the value of that practice.)
    – J.R.
    Jan 30, 2014 at 11:00

2 Answers 2


Our hope has diminished.

Nothing wrong here. We use the word diminished with emotions often, particularly when the diminishing emotion is positive. When things are getting better, though, we might not be as likely to say, "Our despair has diminished", instead saying something more like, "Our despair has lifted."

Please diminish your voice.

Definitely not. As individuals, we lower our voices, not diminish them. That said, I think it would be okay to talk about crowd noise diminishing. We walked away from Times Square, and the voices diminished. I wouldn't have any problem with that sentence.

Our sugar supplies have diminished.

You may notice I took the liberty of substituting storage with supplies. Storage doesn't diminish, but supplies can. That said, my revised sentence seems to have a very formal register. I would never say that in my own kitchen, but an executive in a chocolate factory might: "Our sugar supplies are diminished; if the trucks don't get here with a new shipment soon, we'll be forced to shut down the production line."

The flooding has diminished in our area.

This is a tricky one. It seems grammatical, but I don't like it – probably for idiomatic reasons. I think I would say instead, "The flooding has receded in our area", which is a more descriptive word, and one my ears are used to hearing being used with flooding.

Diminished means, "to make or become less," but your question brings up an interesting point: that it can sound very awkward when applied to the wrong thing, such as misery, or flooding, or the volume of our music.

  • Thank you very much J.R. You always make me blush with your detailed answers.
    – user3214
    Jan 30, 2014 at 11:49
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    No need to blush. ELL was set up for questions like this and users like you. I thought your question was a good poser.
    – J.R.
    Jan 30, 2014 at 12:38
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    +1 @J.R. for poser. I wish I had the same vocabulary :(
    – Maulik V
    Jan 31, 2014 at 5:48
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    @MaulikV - Turn that emoticon's parenthesis the other way – you just learned a new word :-)
    – J.R.
    Jan 31, 2014 at 10:10

You might try using example sentences in online dictionaries instead of creating your own.

A housewife would probably not say:

Our sugar storage has diminished.

She would say:

Oh, we have run out of sugar.

  • Thank you rogermue. I was confused about its usage. I have seen that example sentences I was trying to assess my understandings.
    – user3214
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:36
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    @roger - Sorry to sound blunt, but I disagree completely with your first paragraph. Step 1 of learning a new word: look it up in example dictionaries. Step 2: Try to use it in your own context. I don't see how inserting a word into a new sentence amounts to "inventing" a foreign language. I would call it "application," which is a critical step in the learning process. You are right when you say that a housewife would not say that, but change the word storage to supplies, and have it be the Secretary of Agriculture talking, and suddenly the sentence doesn't sound so bad.
    – J.R.
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:47
  • Learning words in the way you describe a learner does not note that the verb is a Latinism or academic or poetic or has another stilistic value. I see a lot of learners try to make up their own sentences. I have never learnt words this way. Simply because you train wrong language and wrong uses. And you need a teacher to correct you. - Efficient learning is to know how one learns things on one's own. But how languages are learnt is no thing schools convey to their pupils.
    – rogermue
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:53
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    Let's assume the learner has looked up the word in a dictionary. How will they learn more about a word by copying that dictionary's example sentence into a question? I'm not saying that the dictionary shouldn't be used first. It should be, and that's one of the reasons we encourage people to paste a definition into their question. However, assuming an O.P. has done that first, to decry the practice of trying to making up a sentence on ELL is deplorable, in my mind.
    – J.R.
    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:58

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