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There is an essay topic which sounds like this:

Some people think that it is better for children to grow up in the city, while others think that life in the countryside is more suitable.

There is a task to rephrase the topic. It is not mandatory to replace all the words in a sentence with synonyms, but what if we want to replace "suitable" with "appropriate"?

It is often argued that it is better for children to grow up in a town, while others believe that life in the suburb is more appropriate.

Appropriate stands for "suitable or proper in the circumstances." By the definition, we cannot use "appropriate" in the sentence above. Please correct me if you think we can.

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  • In the original suitable sounds odd to me.
    – mdewey
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 17:19
  • @mdewey more odd than "appropriate"? Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 17:59
  • I too find "suitable" odd. For me, it's because "find" correlates with "suitable" so much better than "think". Same goes for "appropriate". So I'd say the essay topic is poorly worded to begin with. I don't know where you found that definition of "appropriate", but to my mind, you could switch "appropriate" and "suitable" in that definition, and it would be just as true. In fact, Merriam-Webster's entry for "appropriate" defines it in terms of "suitable".
    – gotube
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 9:09

1 Answer 1

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The problem is that there are two different meanings that both words can share, but each is "more" associated with one of them.

  • The first meaning talks about what is useful, what works, what fits a need well. Screws are more appropriate than nails when installing something large. // An insulated coat is more suitable than a raincoat when it's this cold.
  • The second meaning talks about what is socially allowed, what is frowned on, and what one should do. This meaning is especially clear when using the negative: You swore at work. That's not appropriate workplace behavior. // A sundress is not suitable clothing for a funeral.

Of the two meanings, "appropriate" is more associated with the second (what one should do), and "suitable" is more associated with the first (what fits a need well).

In the example sentence, "Some think it is better for children to grow up in the city..." I disagree with you, I think either "suitable" or "appropriate" could be used here, but they might change the way the reader understands the sentence, since "better" could be understood in several ways. (Is it "better" for kids because it's "a good fit" for them, or because kids "should" live there?)

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  • Thank you for the elaborate answer! The second part of the topic asks "what are the advantages and disadvantages of both"? So I guess if we are talking about pros and cons, we cannot use "should". Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 18:31

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