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According to dictionaries, "assert" means "to state categorically". Longman Dictinary of Contemporary English says:

(1) to state firmly that something is true

(2) assert your rights/independence etc. to state very strongly your right to do or have something

However, I don't understand what "assert" below means.

(3) the promise to assert more control over the army

In (3), "assert" does not seem to mean "state", but "use" or something like that. How should (3) be paraphrased?

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2 Answers 2

There is another meaning of the word.

assert verb [ trans. ] cause others to recognize (one's authority or a right) by confident and forceful behavior : the good librarian is able to assert authority when required. [NOAD]

This is the sense in which assert is used in your example.

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I see. Then, in order to make others recognize (one's authority or a right), can you do that in any manner when you use the verb "assert"? That is, you do not have to "speak"? –  user6445 Apr 17 '11 at 15:55
    
@user6445: Correct. If you shove someone out of the way, you are asserting your right to the path you are taking. (Just be careful to shove someone smaller and weaker who is not armed, and that no police or friends of the victim are nearby.) Joke! –  Robusto Apr 17 '11 at 17:02
    
I understand! Thank you very much, Robusto. –  user6445 Apr 18 '11 at 1:45

promise to assert more control over the army

Would be better phrased as

promise to exercise more control over the army

I think most people will understand the first form as meaning the same.

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Thank you very much. But I'm wondering why "assert" means "exercise" only in this case. –  user6445 Apr 17 '11 at 8:33
1  
The phrasing using assert is fine. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it has a somewhat different meaning from exercise in that context. –  Robusto Apr 17 '11 at 10:36

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