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I was talking to my friend yesterday and he told me that he has been promoted and has to take additional responsibilities. Then he told me that he would soon become saturated.

Can a person become saturated? Can saturated be used in this context? I keep thinking that overwhelmed is the right word. I also came across sentences like feeling a bit saturated, saturated of what I am doing.

  • No. If it was food I'd try "sated" instead (though it does sound a bit posh). For work tasks "overwhelmed" is good, or "overwrought", or the idiom "spread too thin" – dumbledad May 11 '16 at 6:09
  • Thanks :) so it can only be used for objects or materials right? – Ranjitha May 11 '16 at 6:18
  • I get it now. This cleared up my confusion. Thanks :) – Ranjitha May 11 '16 at 6:30
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    No, I don't think it's clear cut enough to say "only objects or materials". Sorry! But it feels wrong unless it's about something that permeates you. For example I can imagine that after a day reading text books in the library I might exclaim to a friend that I felt saturated. It would be an unusual, poetic, choice of word but not wrong. – dumbledad May 11 '16 at 8:00
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I don't recall any use of "saturated" referring to a person, and couldn't find any in online dictionaries. All the examples I found are of describing objects or materials. So, it is an unusual usage, to say the least.

A close related word that is used to describe a person is "satiated", but it doesn't seem to be a perfect fit in this case.

"Overwhelmed" is suitable, and you can also consider "swamped", "overworked", "overloaded", "exhausted", or "drowned", depending on the message you want to convey.

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    Also "swamped". – Roger Lipscombe May 11 '16 at 8:19
  • I know something was missing! Thanks! (Added to answer) – laugh May 11 '16 at 8:30
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In normal english usage, saturated means getting completely wet. It also has a technical meaning, when a liquid contains the absolute maximum amount of a dissolved solid. Saturate can also mean filling something completely, but this is not used in everyday speech. From this comes the business meaning saturate the market - to supply every possible customer or channel, leaving no possiblilities for further sales or development of sales.

Overwhelmed is not an equivalent word, as it suggests that you are not just required to work at 100% capacity, but at more than 100%- the equivalent would be supersaturated. The nearest equivalent would be more like "at the limit of his capacity".

a bit saturated is definitely an incorrect usage, as you can't be a bit absolute maximum.

Likewise, saturated of what I am doing is unusual and unlikely to be appropriate. If it is intended to imply that you are completely busy (and you find it interesting) you would say

I am completely absorbed with what I am doing.

And if you are completely busy and if you are neutral about it, you would says

I am fully occupied with what I am doing.

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Saturation has a variety of meanings which all include the notion of being at a limit that cannot be passed. For example

  • "saturated by the rain" - you're as wet as you can get,
  • "saturated solution" - you can't dissolve more of a chemical into a solution by adding some more and stirring (leaving out the special case of "supersaturation"),
  • "saturated color" - you can't make the color purer: it's already a rainbow color (although perhaps in a different shade),
  • "emotionally saturated" - your body has already produced all the adrenaline it can, you can't feel some emotion more than you are already feeling it,
  • "cognitively saturated" - you can't handle more information because you are already thinking about something as hard as you can.

So your friend saying that he will soon become saturated is effectively saying he thinks he will reach the limit of the work he can get done in a day.

"Feeling a bit saturated" would convey to me that the speaker is nearing some limit of their capability and perhaps reaching it from time to time.

I am not saying this usage is particularly common or widespead, but I think it would be understood by native speakers. The last example, "saturated of what I am doing" is awkward and "of" should probably be replaced with "from" if used at all.

A much more common expression to use about work is "inundated" (Collins Dictionay): "I am getting inundated at work" would mean I am receiving more requests that I can handle on a regular basis.

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