Converse Terms

Linguistics

Converse Terms are pairs of words which refer to the same thing but from opposite sides.

Take for example the picture on the right. There is one action taking place here: a balloon is being passed between two people. However, we can describe this action in different ways depending on whose perspective we look at it from:

The boy gives the balloon to the girl.

The girl takes the balloon from the boy.

In this instance give and take refer to the same action but from opposite sides.

Similar relationships exist between the following words:

give – take

come – go

lend – borrow

teach – learn

buy – sell

infer – imply

From a teaching perspective it is important to let your students know that there is just one single action going on but there are two perspectives of the same action. Which word they use will depend on which side of the fence they are on.

To a certain extent – and speaking slightly more philosophically here – the same kind of relationship can also exist between the following pairs of words:

before – after

past – future

ancestor – descendent

doctor – patient

employer – employee

teacher – student

win – lose

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