The wise man who knows justice can stop quarreling or argument.

In the sentence, I'm confused with the phrase 'quarreling or argument'. Instead, can I rephrase it as :

'a quarrel or an argument.'

for comprehension purposes, without changing the meaning?

  • I'd say "can stop a quarrel or an argument". By saying "can stop quarreling" you're implying that the wise man was actually quarreling himself. Jun 14, 2016 at 2:57
  • Your question verges on being offtopic, because you did not point out the specific part you're uncertain about, and proofreading is offtopic. Jun 14, 2016 at 4:55

3 Answers 3


There are often two parts to a question like this: Could you say it; and Would you say it? And, often the answers to these questions are not the same.

The wise man who knows justice

Clearly this describes some specific characteristics of a person – they are both wise and just. To say that someone knows justice is suggestive of something that combines both knowledge and understanding:

To have knowledge or information concerning (something), esp. as a consequence of observation, inquiry, or study; to have ascertained, learned, or found out; to have a correct idea or understanding of. - OED Online

The second part is more open to opinion and depends upon the meaning that you want to convey

…can stop quarrelling or argument.

I’m going to disagree others replying here and say that, grammatically and semantically, this is acceptable. Quarrelling is straightforward but Argument is more complicated. The safest way to go is, as has been pointed out is to match …ing with …ing. So, quarrelling and arguing is fine. You could also go with plurals – quarrels or arguments Argument though can also mean a process rather a single instance or multiple instances and, if that’s the case here than it can be used. Think – quarrelling and conflict or quarrelling and strife.

I’d also warn (or argue) that Argument may not be the right word in the first place. Quarrelling has a clear negative meaning, it’s rarely used in a way that suggests a positive outcome. That’s not the case with argument and, as a result, your wise and just man may be in favour of it.


If we agree that you can say it then the, very valid, second part of the question is, would you? Is it ‘natural’ English?

The answer here is, not really. It sounds a bit like the translation of a Confucian proverb – deep, wise and philosophically sound, but not the kind of thing that you’d drop into normal conversation.

For a start – quarrelling and arguing: there’s a huge overlap there, while that is a valid rhetorical device it can sound clumsy like running and sprinting or, for that matter, speaking and rhetoric

It sounds to me that the message that you trying to get across is that:

A wise and just man can stop quarrels

However… The original version would make an awesome fortune cookie.


The wise man who knows justice can stop quarrelling or argument.

What makes this sentence seem strange is the unsettling lack of an indefinite article an before argument.

In fact, this is not a problem as, like many words ending in -ment, argument can be both countable and uncountable. As an uncountable noun, it suggests an ongoing activity. Here is an example- note the lack of indefinite article:

It will be remembered that I was inclined to say, in the case of aesthetic disagreements, that no further argument was possible; ...R M Hare, Freedom and Reason


Your question is based around parallel construction using "quarrel" and "argue"

quarreling or arguing (ongoing)
quarrels or arguments (many)
a quarrel or an argument (singular)


quarrelling or arguments

may work in the case of constantly quarrelling which means many arguments.

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