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We can say "The add function is applied to values 1 and 2". Can we say equivalently "The values 1 and 2 are supplied to the add function"?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's dangerous to generalize that supply is the inverse (or opposite) of apply. It might sound that way when speaking of functions, or possibly other things, but there are many nuances to the usage of supply and apply that would make most reversals sound strange or contrived.

In fact, there would be many cases where they are used nearly as synonyms not reversals.

The machine applies a magnetic field.


The machine supplies a magnetic field.

Mind you,

A magnetic field is supplied by the machine.


A magnetic field is applied by the machine.

Are perfectly correct. So what's going on here? How can they be near synonyms and inverse at the same time? I think supply/apply are not nearly the same inverse pair as, say, input/output. It's not that cut and dried.

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Ohh I see now. Thanks! – Johannes Schaub - litb Feb 5 '11 at 3:05

Yes, we can.

Similarly we can say

The machine is applied to flour and sugar to make cake


Flour and sugar is supplied to the machine to make cake

though this sounds a little contrived.

Supply is the inverse of apply only in certain contexts.

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are there similarities for other word pairs too? Like "submit" vs "admit" or something (I understand that this one isn't such a pair :))? – Johannes Schaub - litb Feb 4 '11 at 7:43
I don't agree. "The machine is applied to flour and sugar to make cake" sounds strange and contrived. – ghoppe Feb 4 '11 at 17:26

In this context, your syntax is correct. You apply a function to one or more parameters, and you supply one or more parameters to a function.

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