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Is there actually any difference between the words? I feel like I am perfectly capable of installing a healthy fear in someone.

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Nope, install a fear is incorrect. –  JoseK Apr 27 '11 at 6:47
Yes. Unless “fear” is the name of some sort of organ or appliance, you really can’t install it. :) –  Jonathan Sterling Apr 27 '11 at 7:22
Do you assume that "bat" and "bot" are interchangeable because they differ by only one letter? –  Marcin May 22 '11 at 13:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Elobarating on @Eldros answer.

You install a quantifiable object and it can be counted. (Installed one software, installed the President, installed two chairs etc.)

You instill a quality (fear, confidence) which cannot be counted

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From Collins Cobuild English Dictionary:

install: If you install a piece of equipment, you fit it or put it somewhere so that it is ready to be used. They had installed a new phone line in the apartment.

instil/instill(AM): If you instil an idea or feeling in someone, especially over a period of time, you make them think it or feel it. They hope that their work will instil a sense of responsibility in children.

So, definitely a difference.

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To install can only be used on physical object (The excpetion would be piece of software, where it could be compared to a piece of equipment for the computer system). Thus fear, an emotion, can't be installed.

In can be instilled, as could idea and feelings. And when one instill fear, it is quite frightening, as it imply the feeling slowling creeping and taking hold on ones mind...

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Actually, "install" is also used of formally initiating somebody in an office or position: "installation of the new Chancellor [of the University]". But that is quite a formal and uncommon use. –  Colin Fine Apr 27 '11 at 17:18
@Colin : Didn't knew about this use, but it makes sense, when we would compare that to "adding/replacing an extension to the actual hierarchy", if you see what I mean. –  Eldroß Apr 28 '11 at 7:10

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