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I don't completely understand the word yield, but I've heard it in my Finance class. I want to use it, but I am afraid of using it an incorrect way.

Can I say

Telling lies yields bad consequences.

Is it correct? I think yield means result in, doesn't it?

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In the financial sense, 'yield' means the amount of money which is the result of a project - the project yields $X. Another way of saying this is 'the yield of project X is $X'. If the project has yet to be carried out, then one talks about the expected yield.

The same is true in mining or oil/gas exploration projects: a certain field has an expected yield of [some large number] of gallons.

On the other hand, your example about telling lies does not sound correct; I doubt that any native speaker would say something like that. Here it would be much better to use 'results in' as you suggested. It might well be that 'yield' is used when the result is something tangible, like money or oil, but not when the result is intangible (e.g. bad consequences).

A different meaning of yield is to 'give way to arguments, demands, or pressure'.

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    I think this answer should do a better job of explaining why the O.P.'s example sentence "does not sound correct." One meaning of yield is: "To produce generally; bring forth; give out; emit; bear; furnish" (see Wordnik. I don't find anything wrong with the original, particularly of the writer wanted to allude to this well-known Biblical concept: whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Seems like a legitimate use of the word yield to me. – J.R. Mar 22 '16 at 9:34
  • I now understand that the word yield is used when the outcome is the result of some kind of effort or investment, isn't it? – Ook Mar 22 '16 at 10:37
  • @Ook: I have added some material to the answer. I suspect that 'yield' is used only when the result is tangible. – No'am Newman Mar 22 '16 at 12:17
  • "yield" used in this way is interchangeable with "produce", although it sounds a bit old fashioned. it's perfectly OK to use "yield" about something intangible like "peace" or "happiness" , – JavaLatte Mar 22 '16 at 12:45
  • I don't think that the limit of the usage yield is about tangibility at all. An investigation can yield information, for example. Rather, I think it's about purpose. The bad consequences are not the purpose of the lie, which is why the sentence doesn't really work. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 22 '16 at 13:01
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The verb yield has multiple meanings. One of the meanings is “result in”, but not all results can be expressed with yield. Yield can only be applied to results that fit with the purpose of the action, not to unexpected byproducts. For example:

The experiment to produce a better hair dye yielded some data on how to produce a nice blonde shade.
The experiment to produce a better hair dye resulted in an explosion.

In the second sentence, the verb yield can't be used, because the explosion has nothing to do with the purpose of the experiment.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines that meaning as “to ​supply or ​produce something ​positive such as a ​profit, an ​amount of ​food or ​information”, but I don't think this definition expresses the meaning completely accurately. Consider one of the examples given in the dictionary:

Early ​radio ​equipment yielded ​poor ​sound ​quality.

Here, the outcome is not positive; but sound quality is the purpose of radio equipment, so the verb yield is appropriate.

Roughly speaking, a yield is something expected. It might not be the desired outcome, but it's something in the right category. Taking another example given by the Cambridge dictionary:

The ​experiments yielded some ​surprising ​results.

The results weren't the expected ones, but the purpose of an experiment is to produce results, so an experiment yields results whether they are the expected ones or not.

The meaning in finance is related: the yield of an investment is how much money you get from the investment. Getting that money is the purpose of the investment.

About your sentence:

?Telling lies yields bad consequences.

That sounds weird. Assuming that the bad consequences are to the liar, they go against the goal of the lies, so the natural way to formulate this sentence is something like “telling lies results in bad consequences”. However, you can use the word yield, but it means something a little different: the sentence with yields conveys that the act of lying mechanically implies bad consequences, not necessarily just for the liar. This supposes a philosophical background where all actions have consequences and the distinction between consequence and purpose is somewhat blurred. The most natural interpretation of “telling lies results in bad consequences” is “if you lie, then sooner or later an indirect consequence of that lie will be something that is bad for you”. It expresses a statistical certainty. On the other hand, “telling lies yields bad consequences” says roughly “it's a law of the universe that lies cause bad things”. It expresses a mechanical certainty.

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The sentence

Telling lies yields bad consequences.

is grammatically correct and is perfectly understandable. This meaning of "yield" is (outside of specialised fields like finance or agriculture) less common than "produce", possibly because it sounds quite dated: it sounds like a proverb or a quote from the bible. Maybe that's the effect you want...

If you wanted to make the sentence mean "results in", which is rather less direct than "yields" or "produces", you would use the expression "leads to", for example:

We knew that this would lead to trouble

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