I'd like to know the difference between sue/charge/accuse/litigate/bring a suit/bring an action which I run into a lot in articles. They all can mean taking a legal action. But in Chinese we don't have as many choices of words to mean the same thing. Dictionaries help me poorly with that except for collocation. (I know some of them have other meanings, but that's not the problem here)

Can you please explain to me what the nuances are suggested between them in terms of severity, purpose, or parties involved etc?

closed as off-topic by user3169, Em1, Chenmunka, user8543, jimsug Jul 23 '14 at 10:10

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I think this question has more to do with legal term descriptions as none are really that similar vocabulary-wise. A dictionary or legal reference material should be enough. – user3169 Jul 23 '14 at 5:44
  • I often ponder over the same question. Hope someone provides a good reference explaining the difference. – CowperKettle Jul 23 '14 at 5:46
  • 1
    I thought this question could be voted against. But I hoped to at least get some hints of a little basic distinction even from a layman's perspective. @CopperKettle – Kinzle B Jul 23 '14 at 7:33
  • In U.S. law, there is a difference between a "crime" and a "tort". A crime is an offense against society in general. If convicted you may have to pay a fine to the government, or go to jail, or be executed. A tort is an offense against another person or a company. If convicted you may be ordered to stop doing the thing that causes them harm, or to give them money. You can be "sued" for a tort. You can be "charged" with a crime. – Jay Oct 2 '14 at 13:41
  • 1
    I'm going to vote to leave this closed because even though the list of words are somewhat related, they aren't even close to synonyms for each other. If you could narrow the question to focus on the parts of the definitions that are confusing to you, or add more context to help us understand how we can help beyond just giving you alternate definitions of the terms, I would consider re-opening. – ColleenV Oct 2 '14 at 17:15

As it's a bit difficult to find definitions for phrases I'll pop this in before/if the q is closed:

'Sue' and the last three ('litigate', 'bring a suit', 'bring an action') are essentially the same and mean to instigate proceedings in civil court against someone.

'Charge' is when the police or state file the action in criminal court.

'Accuse' is what the court action or charge says was done by the offending person. Accusation is used in both civil and criminal proceedings.

The definitions of the single terms (sue, litigate) and the nouns to the phrases (suit, action) should be found in any decent online dictionary. See Oxford's 5th definition for 'Action' for example. Be aware however that there may be subtleties of difference between different jurisdictions and their different court systems.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.