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I know that lean and incline's meanings are similar, but I cannot understand in which context each is used.

With profits continuing to fall amid rising costs, high interest rates and growth hitting a lean patch, SVM Inc is conserving its earning by paying less to shareholders.

and

The terrain inclined down.

Can anyone explain it?

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This is General Reference. Any dictionary will show that lean and incline both have a range of meanings which overlap in certain contexts, but not in others. –  FumbleFingers Jun 8 '12 at 15:24
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

While it's true that 'lean' and 'incline' do share a definition in common, it isn't the only definition.

In particular, for your cited examples, you'll want to pay attention to the second adjective listing of Lean on this page, and in particular, the third definition provided:

3 - lacking in richness, fullness, quantity, etc.; poor: a lean diet; lean years.

The 'lean patch' in question refers not to a 'downhill' patch, but rather, to a period of reduced profitability - i.e., 'lacking in richness'.

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hi,here a lean patch means" downside joining " ?is it correct? –  Pratik Jun 8 '12 at 5:20
1  
Not sure what you mean by "downside joining" lean can be taken here to mean scarce. Since they are talking about 'growth' in the sentence, a lean patch means an area with little to no growth. –  Jim Jun 8 '12 at 5:36
    
Actually the 3rd definition is what you want. The second def. is the origin of the metaphoric definition in 3. 3. talks about "lean years" which is the precise usage in OP's sentence. –  Jim Jun 8 '12 at 5:39
    
@Jim it's the third definition of the second variant of Lean on the linked page. I'll clarify. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 8 '12 at 5:55
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It's true that the two words "lean" and "incline" CAN have similar meanings. But not through the examples that you cited.

First, if we talk about Parts of Speech:

lean = Verb, Noun, Adjective

incline = Verb, Noun

In your examples, "lean" is an Adjective and "incline" is a Verb, and in these forms they don't share much similarity:

lean (Adjective) = thin, not prosperous, tight, not productive etc.

incline (Verb) = to slant, to have a tendency etc.

If you change the Parts of Speech though, you might find what you're looking for:

leaning (Adjective) = tilted

ex. the leaning Tower of Pisa

inclined (Adjective) = slanted

ex. an inclined plane

Or,

lean (Noun) = an angle

ex. a pronounced lean

incline (Noun) = a slope

ex. a steep incline

Finally, the Verbs are not so similar:

incline (Verb) = to slope

ex. The land inclines.

lean (Verb) = to be stand at an angle against something for support

ex. The wall leans.

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This seems not useful; it's badly organized and the point of some sections is unclear. -1 –  jwpat7 Jul 18 '12 at 5:02
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