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What is the difference between “increase” and “augment”? I read that “Increase” is related to quantity meanwhile “augment” is related to quality, but at the same time I found a lot of sentences in which “augment” is used meaning “increase”.

Examples/

1) Because I want to augment my income,I’m thinking about getting a second job.

2) The budget was augmented by various donations.

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2 Answers 2

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Compare the intransitive versions of both verbs:

The harder they worked, the more their harvests increased. - correct

The harder they worked, the more their harvests augmented. - wrong.

But in the transitive form:

The harder they worked, the more their harvests increased their wealth. - correct

The harder they worked, the more their harvests augmented their wealth. - correct.

It is possible to use “to augment” as an intransitive verb, but it is not common:

2010 Hudson Review 63 142 Their numbers began to augment as soon as Paris was selected as the seat of government.

To increase implies a growth (sudden or over time) in size.

To augment implies to add to; we cannot always replace "grow" with "augment".

The nouns are useful in order to see the differences:

An augmentation adds something to an object; an increase causes the original object to be bigger:

Proceedings of the IEEE and ACM International Symposium on Augmented Reality (2001) The video images are augmented (=added to) with the live images from the ultrasound scanner.

In the transitive form of the verb, there is a lot of overlap in the meanings and any real difference is subtle - more of a nuance.

1 Augment is in a higher register/more formal than "increase" and

2 is chiefly used with something that has a positive effect and

3 often (but not always), as you say, related to a quality.

4 Increase is neutral and far commoner in general use.

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  • Thank you for the explanation!
    – Manar
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 13:12
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One difference is that "augment" is transitive only. But it can cover both quantity and quality:

Merriam-Webster "augment"
to make greater, more numerous, larger, or more intense

The word "increase" has intransitive uses, for example,

"The need for medical care has increased in recent years."

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  • @JackOFlaherty Thank you!
    – Manar
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 13:13

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