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Let's say my boss doesn't want to give me a day off because I have had one this week. And then he becomes kinder, and less strickt. Will it be the correct use of softened in the following sentence.

My boss didn't want me to give a day off because I have already had one this week. But then he soften and gave it to me.

If this use of the word feels unnatural, then what would be the most natural way to say that?

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    ...then he relented is a reasonable alternative. Or gave in, but that more strongly implies the boss changed his mind as a result of continued pleading (which defeated his will to stick to his original decision), rather than because he'd reconsidered things for himself, and decided to be "kinder / less strict". – FumbleFingers Jun 20 at 16:22
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That verb is appropriate and idiomatic to use in that situation, but the verb tense should be the simple past because the action (of softening) takes place in the past, and the verb in the first sentence ("didn't want") is in the simple past tense.

My boss didn't want me to give a day off because I have already had one this week. But then he softened and gave it to me.

  • Edit:

    Sorry I didn't notice this when I first copy-pasted your original sentence, but there is also a word order issue. The sentence should be, "My boss didn't want to give me a day off because I have already had one this week. But then he softened and gave it to me."

  • It's a "valid" use of soften, but I wouldn't say it's particularly common. And it becomes even less idiomatic if we change the context a bit. Suppose one of the boss's friends was discussing some previous refusal to grant time off. He might well say I really think you should have relented, but I can't say I find I really think you should have softened particularly idiomatic. – FumbleFingers Jun 20 at 16:13
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    Maybe it's a regional thing. It sounds quite natural to me (USA). – Lorel C. Jun 20 at 16:26
  • I didn't say it's "unnatural". Simply that it's not particularly common by comparison. There must be thousands of written instances of he relented and gave in Google Books, but I can only read three instances of he softened and gave. See also this chart. – FumbleFingers Jun 20 at 16:34
  • I don't see that meaning explicitly in Merriam Webster, but macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/soften (def. 2) and ldoceonline.com/dictionary/soften (example under def. 2) – Lorel C. Jun 20 at 16:35
  • It's such a trivial metaphoric extension most dictionaries probably wouldn't both explicitly listing it. You might find similar definitions for near-synonymous to melt / to thaw in some dictionaries (either of which could "reasonably" be used in OP's exact context). But again, I think mostly they wouldn't bother. – FumbleFingers Jun 20 at 16:39

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