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Can adjust, settle, and arrange be used interchangeably?

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closed as general reference by tchrist, Matt Эллен, MετάEd, Mahnax, waiwai933 Aug 23 '12 at 23:21

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2 Answers 2

No, they're not at all interchangeable under most circumstances; for instance,

We had to adjust some things before we could settle on an arrangement.

To adjust generally means to make small changes to something in order to make it better-suited to something: "He adjusted the airplane seat to be as comfortable as possible, which wasn't saying much under the circumstances."

To settle means to calm, or to (cause to) reach an agreement: "The teacher settled the boys' disagreement by confiscating the toy they were fighting over."

To arrange something means to place in a particular layout, or to make a plan (with the help of others) for something: "I have arranged for my daughter to go visit her cousins for a week this summer."

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No. Here are some sentences where they cannot be used intechangeably:

Have you adjusted to the weather yet?

It would not make sense in this sentence to replace "adjust" with "arranged". (Although "settled" is a possible alternative.)

Arrange these cards in alphabetical order.

Cards are not adjusted or settled in alphabetical order.

Seconds after the rock had been thrown into the pond, the water began to settle.

Water does not adjust or arrange in this way.

Arrange roughly means, "to put in order". Settle roughly means, "come to rest." Adjust roughly means, "to change for the purpose of being more suitable."

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