In the following context, I wonder if you could let me know which choice doesn't work and why:

  • When my doctor couldn't ........... my disease after a week of treatment he said to go to better hospital and consult a better doctor as something is really wrong with me. He said so, right in front of me.

a) diagnose
b) recognize

Based on dictionary definition, "a" fits the best in this context, but I don't know whether the verb "recognize" works too or not.

Dictionaries, acknowledge that "diagnose" can be used for many things as well as a disease and by opening this thread, I was going to know more bout the usage of these two words specially "recognize".

Added: Cambridge Dictionary has raised the example below:

Doctors are trained to recognize the symptoms of different diseases.

But here it's been said that they were unable to recognize "the symptoms" of diseases and not the "diseases".

  • 1
    Both words are acceptable, having broadly the same meaning, but diagnose is the one that is preferred in a medical context.
    – JavaLatte
    May 18, 2019 at 10:05
  • Thank you @JavaLatte, but is it applicable to "diagnosis" and "recognition" too? For instance, can I say something like: "Doctors' recognition / diagnoses were incorrect / wrong"?
    – A-friend
    May 18, 2019 at 10:21
  • Also I guess based on what you mentioned @JavaLatte I can say: "His face was not recognizable from afar", and here I cannot use "diagnosable". But in the sentence "His disease was not ............... for doctors", I can use both "diagnosable" and "recognizable", although when it comes to medicine, the preferred word would be: diagnose, diagnosable and diagnosis. Do you confirm my takeaway?
    – A-friend
    May 18, 2019 at 10:29
  • 1
    OK, if you want to write in hipster American English, that's your choice, but a lot of people will not understand you. google.com/search?q=%22takeaway%22&tbm=bks&lr=lang_en
    – JavaLatte
    May 19, 2019 at 3:17
  • 1
    I have already commented on that post.
    – JavaLatte
    May 20, 2019 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


Recognize means identify (someone or something) from having encountered them before; know again (Google dictionary). You usually recognize something the moment you see it.

Diagnose means identify the nature of (an illness or other problem) by examination of the symptoms (Google dictionary). Diagnosis usually involves a series of tests, so it's not as simple as recognition. Even if no tests are involved, a doctor still needs to know how to recognize a symptom or a disease (by being an expert). Or, as you quoted: "Doctors are trained to recognize," which means able to diagnose.

You cannot use the word diagnosable (which involves expertise or even tests) instead of recognizable (which is usually obvious by just looking at something). On the other hand, you can use recognizable instead of diagnosable, because recognizable is a broader and more general word.

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