Based on all my researches and what I know myself, the words: "contrary to" and "opposite to" are not exactly the same like many other English synonyms! Opposite is when a word or thing means exactly different from another word. So "big" and "little" are opposites and so are "light" and "dark", etc. Contrary is similar to opposite but it is used often when things don't line up.. For example, you could say, "Contrary to popular belief, fast food is dangerous."

Now, I wonder if in the following made-up example the two are interchangeable:

  • Today, many scientists in genetic laboratories are doing their best to change human genes to change the next generation in the way they want. It can sound good to many people. Nevertheless, I believe that ...................... to the nature's process. Also, for some reason, I think it is .................... to the moral principles.

The first blank:
a. contrary
b. opposite

The second blank:
a. contrary
b. opposite

  • 1
    Contrary to your research, synonyms are nearly always slightly different, either in meaning, or in the meaning of some senses, or in register. I can't think of any two words that can are entirely replaceable in all circumstances. – James K Aug 17 '19 at 13:04

"Opposite" cannot go in either slot. Opposite is very specific; it must be a mirror image of X in reverse on the other end of the spectrum. "Contrary" describes something that is just NOT X but can be anywhere along the spectrum. It is far less precise.

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