Explain, please, in detail exact differences in meaning between:

1 to combine
2. to join
3. to unite
4. to link


All of these words can be used in many overlapping contexts, often as synonyms.

To "combine" two separate things is to put them together into a single grouping, mixture, etc. This group is then referred to as a "combination" of the individual elements.

To "unite" also implies grouping together separate things, but conveys a stronger sense of "bringing disconnected things together", or "merging many things into a single unit".

To "join" things also means to bring them together into a grouping, but generally conveys a sense of the two things melding together. To join implies "becoming a part of" or "becoming attached to". When a person joins a group, they become a part of it. When a person joins two pieces of wood, they physically attach them together ... etc.

To "link" two things is to form a connection between them, and can often be synonymous with "join". However, "link" doesn't convey as much of a sense of the two things becoming a unit, but more that they are connected or related. Thus we might say that "there is a link between smoking and cancer", because there is an important relationship between them. "Linking" also conveys a sense of a "chain" of interlocking connections (and the etymological origins of the word reflect this). The links of a chain, or links on the internet, are both examples of this latter sense.

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