In relation to question about using "Infer" I'd like to ask what is wrong with deem in this example? How to use it correctly?

'A Japanese' infers the Japanese person is a thing, and not a person. This is what deems it offensive.

'A Japanese Person' infers the Japanese person is just that - a person, and is therefore considered fine for use.

3 Answers 3


"To deem" is an action of consciously deciding. It is an action taken by a sentient being. So to say that some factual evidence "deems" something is nonsensical, as facts are merely ideas, not people or beings with the capacity to make decisions.

It would perhaps be more appropriate to rephrase:

'A Japanese' implies the Japanese person is a thing, and not a person. This is what caused certain people to deem it offensive.

(Note that I also changed infers to *implies. This is the subject of another question, but please research it if you don't know why I did that.)

EDIT: Ah, I just saw the reference to the other question, re: infer. And then I answered the other question. So... go check that out.


Let us ignore the infer / imply confusion, which is covered by another question.

Deem means consider, and in the example deems it offensive is backwards. Someone must deem something offensive. An inanimate object can't deem; it can only be deemed.

I find deem to be rather old-fashioned, and would use consider instead.

(Bias: US native, of an "older" generation.)

  • I find that deem is still used pretty frequently in certain contexts. (Also a US native, though of a younger generation. ) Jan 31, 2013 at 21:44
  • UK, older generation. But not so old that I would use deem myself in conversation (except facetiously). The word was well into decline before Queen Victoria gave up the ghost. Apr 29, 2013 at 2:48

"deem" is one of the more overused words in undergraduate writing. It isn't simply a synonym for "thinks" and its use is quite restricted to specific environments. A better synonym is "consider", and you can sometimes swap the two. "deem", however, is more formal and a bit old fashioned. Usually, "deem" is intransitive, so it doesn't take a direct object. You can say "I will take whatever action I deem appropriate", but "I deem that action appropriate" is non-idiomatic.


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