How common is it to use the word "Resolve" instead of "Decide" in spoken English?

I resolved to buy a house.

I decided to buy a house.

I live in the USA and I hear people saying "decide" much more often than "resolve".

  • 1
    This should give some idea, though of course it's only looking at books (or things Google considers books): books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – SamBC
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 10:37

3 Answers 3


Question: How common is it to use the word resolve instead of decide in spoken English?

That is a false problem since:

resolve and decide are not synonyms.

if you resolve something, you find a solution to it. Or you are promising to do something.
- I will resolve this problem. [deal with it and end it by finding a solution to it]
- I resolve never to spend so much money again. [promise] - The board resolved to spend 10,000 for recycling. [a resolution, an official action in a voting body]

If you decide something, it does not mean you were looking for a solution necessarily.

to decide something is to see choice(s) and pick one.

These uses would be borne out by dictionaries.

One decides things many times a day. One doesn't necessarily resolve anything on any particular day.

Resolve is more complex than decide. You use one instead of the other because their meanings are different.


It's to do with the received implications of the two words, as well as subtle differences in their overall meaning. Decisions happen every day, usually small ones like which pair of socks you put on, or maybe some slightly bigger ones like what do you want for lunch, or maybe even a big one - should I move in with my boyfriend/girlfriend? Either way, a decision usually implies some kind of binary choice: to either do this or that, to go this way or that way, to have this sandwich or that sandwich.

To resolve to do something usually indicates something on a much larger scale, and it usually indicates a grander change of direction or a lifestyle change. Hence a new year's resolution to go jogging twice a week, rather than a new year's decision. A resolution to do something goes beyond a simple decision as it indicates a long term commitment to doing or achieving something.

Now, I must go for a jog.


One of the meanings of to resolve is summarised as 'decide', but it has additional nuances over to decide. As Cambridge Dictionaries puts it, it means "to make a decision formally or with determination".

Thus, resolve is used in some situations, especially to talk about decisions taken by organisations or particularly firm decisions, commitments being made in formal language. Decide is used in other situations. There are some cases where there's overlap, but most of the time one is more appropriate than the other.

You asked about this in terms of spoken English; as spoken English tends to be less formal, I would imagine that it tends towards decide more strongly than written English, and Google NGram suggests that written English tends towards decide by a reasonable margin. However, don't let that tell you that you should "play safe" by using decide all the time. Sometimes, resolve is more appropriate.

  • By the by, I just did a search in an academic spoken English corpus, and "decide" has about ten times the hits of "resolve", both as headword searches. I'm not sure you'll get a clearer idea of what's common in practice than that.
    – SamBC
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 21:14

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