One day I was thinking about these two words hope and faith.

If a man is drowning in the water then he should have faith/hope that somebody will come and save him.

Faith and hope have different meaning in dictionary but in a statement I do not find any difference between hope and faith.

Are they synonyms? Are there some difference in usage of these words?

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    A simplified idea: Hope is wishful thinking. Faith is trustful thoughts. – Damkerng T. Jul 11 '15 at 18:23
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    "Hope is the thing with feathers \ That perches in the soul \ And sings the tune without the words \ And never stops at all" (Dickinson) – CowperKettle Jul 10 '16 at 3:59
up vote 6 down vote accepted

If a man is drowning in the water then he should have faith / hope that somebody will come and save him.

If this man has a strong hope that somebody will save him, he still allows for the possibility that nobody will do. He is very hopeful, but he's still only hoping. If he suddenly feels some doubts about his hope, he may dwell on these doubts, because hope does not forbid it.

If this man has a strong faith that somebody will save him, he refuses to admit even the possibility that nobody will do. He may feel some doubts deep inside but he will suppress such doubts with all his willpower, because he has faith. Entertaining doubts would be a betrayal of his faith.

Hope is often based on mundane inferences: "I read in newspapers about drowning people being saved. I know that there are boats often crossing this part of the river (lake, ocean)."

Faith is often based on the supernatural: "I have a guardian angel, he will make some fishermen notice me and hurry to the rescue."

P.S. This is really a philosophical question. You might try asking it at (on?) Philosophy Stack Exchange.

  • So, with faith, hope is unnecessary, or even impossible? or is hope the putty that fills the cracks in faith? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 11 '15 at 12:59
  • @TRomano - I hope (and even have faith) that you will explain the origin of this conclusion. (0: – CowperKettle Jul 11 '15 at 13:08
  • Your hope allows for the possibility that I would not explain. Your faith, unless it be imperfect faith, does not admit that possibility. So, perfect faith and hope are mutually exclusive. Imperfect faith, on the other hand, can coexist with hope; indeed, when faith falters, hope is its support. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 11 '15 at 13:13
  • @TRomano - Great! I hope you won't leave ELL for Philosophy StackExchange. Although the two sites are not mutually exclusive. (0: – CowperKettle Jul 11 '15 at 13:17

In my interpretation of these words, hope is a passive wish that something will come through eventually, but with the possibility that it won't. For instance, if your drowning man hopes someone will come along, he's accepted and is prepared for the alternative scenario, but wishes that something, anything will happen to reverse it.

On the other hand, if he has faith that someone will come along, he is not ready to give up, he is certain that he'll make it and he bases this certainty on any number of factors, beliefs, knowledge, etc. It is more of an active expectation.

There is indeed a difference. "Hope" implies desire on the part of the speaker, but without immediate expectation that the desire will be fulfilled. "Faith" implies expectation, but of a peculiar sort.

For an abandoned, pregnant girl to say of an ex-boyfriend, "I hope he dies!" does not in any way suggest that his life expectancy is limited.

For the girl to say "I have faith that he will be punished" suggests that a) she believes it will happen, but b) there is no immediate "ordinary" reason for her to believe it. If she has brought a paternity suit against him and the DNA evidence is conclusive, or if she has poisoned his coffee in revenge, she would say something like "I expect he will (be punished/die)." Faith generally implies belief in a process which is beyond one's control. This may mean the supernatural, as in religious faith, or it may mean a process over which you have no detailed control, such as having faith in the legal system.

Hope defines the wish, i.e. what you want to happen, and faith is the action you take to make it happen.

In your example, the man hopes that someone will come and save him, and has faith by staying afloat and shouting for help.

  • I don't agree that faith is an action. It is confidence or trust in a person or thing, which is a state of mind, not an action. You might act based upon that state of mind, but in a secular context, faith isn't the same as the action you take. – ColleenV Sep 11 '15 at 16:10

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