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The 19th century was marked by the abolition of slavery.
The 19th century marked the abolition of slavery.

Which is correct?

The meaning is that the abolition of slavery was an important event in the 19th century.

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  • Please tell us what you've found in dictionaries about the word "mark" in this sense, and what your confusion is about?
    – gotube
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 7:54

3 Answers 3

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They mean the exact opposite of each other!

The 19th century was marked by the abolition of slavery.

This means the abolition of slavery marked the 19th century.

The 19th century marked the abolition of slavery.

This means the 19th century marked the abolition of slavery.

The first is the correct option. A whole century cannot be said to mark a single event.

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The 19th century was marked by the abolition of slavery. [OKAY re grammar]
This is a passive sentence; The declarative would be:

The abolition of slavery marked the 19th century. [OKAY}

mark here means influenced, had an influence on.

The 19th century marked the abolition of slavery. [NOT OKAY]

The 19th century may mark something but not something that occurs at specific point during the century.

However, bear in mind that the abolition of slavery came after the second half of the 19th century, so the sentence should really be:

The post-Civil War period (after 1865) was marked by the abolition of slavery.
AND
The abolition of slavery marked the post-Civil War period (after 1865).

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I tend to disagree with both of the other answers that have been given by @Astralbee and @Lambie.

My main concern is with the interpretation they have each placed on the second sentence.

I would nonetheless agree that these two grammatically-correct sentences have quite different meanings.

The 19th century was marked by the abolition of slavery, simply means what it says - namely that that century as a whole was "marked" (ie. changed in the way the century came to be seen, or in some other historical sense) by the abolition of slavery.

The 19th century marked the abolition of slavery, however means that the 19th century was the marker-point in time in which slavery was abolished. Consider this sentence - The fifteenth century saw the beginnings of slavery inthe Americas, the 19th saw (or marked) its abolition.

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