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If I say something like this:

I will assign this task to this user.

How do I say the same with the verb "unassign", meaning that I want to remove the assignment of that task to that user? What seems the most logical at the moment is:

I will unassign this task from this user.

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  • Since the verb "unassign" is a specialized word for computer science, I would suggest looking in computer science papers to find out what the usage has been.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 15, 2021 at 10:09
  • Hello, and welcome to the ELU. Have you tried to google this verb and see how it is used in sentences? Note that if you can find the answer to your question in dictionaries, it may be closed as such.
    – fev
    Jul 15, 2021 at 10:10
  • Tried Googling but without this specific sentence structure. Tried searching here as well, but to no avail.
    – NMilev
    Jul 15, 2021 at 10:13
  • I would automatically use "unassign a task from a user". Also see english.stackexchange.com/questions/156986/…
    – Peter
    Jul 15, 2021 at 12:07

2 Answers 2

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Your usage of unassign is logically sound but it's not technically correct. To be 'unassigned' is to be in a state of having nothing assigned to you, not the past tense of unassigning. The word 'unassign' is a computing term that hasn't really made it into common language. In fact it doesn't exist in Merriam-Webster's dictionary at all.

If you look up the synonyms and antonyms of assign you can find more useful terms that may fit the situation more easily.

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    Good answer. It's odd that there is not a good antonym for assign. When I tried to find an acceptable way to say unassign from nothing came to mind. I would probably say unassign, to be honest. If I was deliberately trying to avoid using the non-word unassign I would most likely say. I am going to assign Task A to Rita and take Tom off Task A. But you won't find Take Off listed as an antonym anywhere. Jul 15, 2021 at 13:10
  • Most English words don't have antonyms. Some few do, and that gives the impression that every word does. Think about it - what is the antonym of tower? Dome? Pit? Lawn? none of them are a tower, after all. Why aren't they antonyms? There's too many ways to be opposed. Jul 15, 2021 at 14:16
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    @JohnLawler I would argue that verbs and adjectives often have them. What you have given as an example is being used as a noun.
    – LJ Codes
    Jul 15, 2021 at 14:42
  • Simple physical adjectives like tall often have them, yes. But how about run, talk, striped, purple, or fuzzy? Any time one gets beyond simple sentences and third-grade vocabulary, somehow it doesn't work well any more. Negation is an extremely complex phenomenon. Jul 15, 2021 at 14:47
  • @EllieK, I don't think they could ever be written as opposites because they have different objects (the task for one, and the person for the other) Jul 15, 2021 at 22:59
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You've discovered the problem with the word "assign". :) If you can, choose a different verb that has a direct antonym, especially if you're writing user-facing text. However, if you're stuck with "assign", then try "remove...from". It's not a perfect antonym, but it does capture the action of taking away a task that was "given" to the user.

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