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Please check the way I've used "Taking advantage of" in the sentence below?

How do you take advantage of these characteristics of colors in your paintings?

Or should I use "exploit" or "make use of" instead of it?

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    I'm not really sure what you're trying to say. “Take advantage of” can be part of a positive statement, especially when talking about taking advantage of a thing and not a person, but I'm not sure it's the best word anyway. The definitions I looked at seemed to focus more on making “good use of the opportunities offered by (something)” not just making use of it directly, but that might not really matter much here. It kind of depends on what you're trying to say. Apr 2, 2014 at 5:54
  • @TylerJamesYoung Thank you :) Characteristics that I am referring to are "Undertone" and "Masstone".
    – user3214
    Apr 2, 2014 at 6:02
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    I'm not familiar with those terms, but it seems like “employ” or might be the best verb in this case. I'm not sure I'd call them “characteristics” of colors, though. It might be better to say “How do apply these sorts of colors in your paintings?” I still don't feel qualified to comment confidently. Your original sentence might be totally fine. Apr 2, 2014 at 6:11
  • @TylerJamesYoung Thanks :) Your suggested substitute is an easier way to say the same thing. Thank you again.
    – user3214
    Apr 2, 2014 at 6:21

2 Answers 2

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I would say, your original sentence:

'How do you take advantage of these characteristics of colors in your paintings?'

-is okay. But if you feel it is too long and feels a bit off, then you can ask

'How do you take advantage of these color characteristics in your paintings?'

Now coming to the topic of "Take advantage of"

Well, it can be used in a good sense/meaning/context or a bad one.

Good- Take advantage of the opportunity; Take advantage of this discount;
Bad- Take advantage of a person; Take advantage of his/her weakness/fear;

But you are only talking about colour characteristics in a painting and it cannot come out in a bad sense.

To address your question further, exploit usually means to use to your advantage, so it comes very close to "take advantage of". Exploit can also be used in a good and bad sense.

Good- Exploit a new technology/market Bad- Exploit the poor/innocent

To "make use of" just means to "make use of". It does not show or imply whether you are using it to your advantage or not. So I don't think it will fit into your question.

The word apply is similar to make use of, it shows that you are using it but it does not describe if you are using it to your advantage or not.

I am a Software developer and I use the idiom "take advantage of" a lot, when I try to find how I can use various technologies to leverage the efficiency of my programs, I don't use "exploit" as much though.

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  • Thank you for your detailed explanation. It is very instructive.
    – user3214
    Apr 2, 2014 at 9:32
  • @Maulik V Thank you for the editing. I gotta learn how to edit.
    – NANDAGOPAL
    Apr 2, 2014 at 10:14
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"Take advantage" isn't wrong per se, but I would go with "How do you make use of these characteristics of color in your paintings?" as I have come across this usage of "make use of" many times.

Among others, Google suggests people write things like:

  • "how do biologists make use of restriction enzymes"
  • "how do artists make use of the principles of perception"
  • "how do teachers make use of prior knowledge for instruction"

...which sound like they're in the direction that you want to go.

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