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I have a question about the usage of "communicate":

He communicated about history.

I could find similar sentences using "communicate about" on the web:

The intermingling of work and personal life adds to the onslaught, as people communicate about personal topics during the workday, and about work topics when they are at home.

but not in dictionaries. So, do native speakers think that the pattern "communicate about" is wrong?

  • Could you maybe include some of the other examples you found on Google? As an AmE speaker, I'd be unlikely to say the phrase you have here in preference for something like He talked about history or He wrote about history. – Catija Feb 10 '15 at 8:07
  • @Catija I added an example in my question. – meatie Feb 10 '15 at 8:11
  • Ah. I see. Honestly, I ache to turn communicate about in your longer sentence to discuss. I don't think it's wrong, it just bugs me at some level. – Catija Feb 10 '15 at 8:13
  • "Communicate" is usually a two-way process, or many-way process, so "he communicated about history" is a very strange way to put it. It may be acceptable when we speak of a group of people. – CowperKettle Feb 10 '15 at 8:19
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I will answer as an educated (college graduate) person from the United States.

The first example He communicated about history. is much more odd for, as CopperKettle said in the comments.

"Communicate" is usually a two-way process, or many-way process, so "he communicated about history" is a very strange way to put it.

We communicated about history would be (arguably) better as it at least addresses the fact that communication is at least a two-person concept. Something longer, like:

For three years we sent emails back and forth. On a regular basis we communicated about our daily lives, sharing anecdotes, photos, and stories.

... actually, this isn't horrid. I could see it in some romance novel out there.


I would expect to read the longer phrase in an academic paper or a study of some sort... and it appears to be from an article in the NYT... which fits.

The intermingling of work and personal life adds to the onslaught, as people communicate about personal topics during the workday, and about work topics when they are at home.

I don't think the average person would say it out loud in regular conversation but it's certainly appropriate for academia or other more formal writing styles.

Personally, I'd use discuss instead of communicate about and I'd say that, from skimming the article, she's trying to pack the word communicate into it as many times as humanly possible (the word appears, in one form or another, 12 times in the article).

Article Source: Messages Galore, but No Time to Think by Phyllis Korkki, NYT June 13, 2013

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