I'm Averse To The Incorrect Use Of 'Adverse'

The words 'averse' and 'adverse' differ by only one letter. But they don't mean exactly the same thing, and only 'averse' can be used in the construction 'I'm not averse to . . .'. If you write 'I'm not adverse to . . .', you are incorrect.

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The Macquarie Dictionary defines 'averse' as meaning "having strong feelings of antipathy or repugnance; opposed'. For our purposes, "opposed" is the relevant sense. 'I'm not averse to' means the same as 'I'm not opposed to'.

That double negative construction isn't the ultimate in clarity, but it is widely employed. Unfortunately, the incorrect 'I'm not adverse to' is also often used. While 'adverse' also means 'opposing' (in a broad sense), it occurs in structures such as 'adverse reaction'.

It's an easy mistake to make, especially if you've misheard the expression. You're admittedly unlikely to be misunderstood if you use the wrong version, but you will still be wrong. And no-one wants that, do they?

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Worse by far, at least for me, is the number of otherwise literate people who use prevaricate when they mean procrastinate.

    Regards, David

      I'm more annoyed by people proclaiming to be "politically correct" when they actually mean being "an oversensitive wanker".

    Unfortunately despite my usual predilection to using words correctly, i appear to be an abuser of this one, i never knew averse existed and have always used adverse, part of me wants to say "stuff it, everyone uses adverse so ill keep using it" but how can i expect others to use words properly if i don't, on the other hand again averse sounds stupid (much like kibi/mibi bytes and i flat out refuse to use those)

      I'm a big grammar nazi too (well, grammar nazi in my head, I don't actually go around correcting people though) and I didn't know about this one either. In fact, I started reading the title "I'm averse to..." and rolled my eyes thinking "it's 'adverse' you dingbats!" :P Always happy to stand corrected.

        Hehe i had thoughts on a similar line, but thought perhaps they were being clever.

    Hmmm. "Not adverse to" doesn't have the same flow to it, as far as I'm concerned. It adds a third syllable to the word in a phrase that tends to be used informally - as you say, it's already an awkward double negative anyway.

    Given the choice between sounding dumber but being correct; or sounding less dumb, but being wrong, I'll take the later. Or I'll just find another phrase entirely to express my apathy. I'm not averse to changing.

    Effect and Affect...cannot stand when people get them mixed up.

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