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He procured a proper way to fix his relationship.

He thought of a proper way to fix his relationship.

Are those equivalent? Is the use of "procure" here unnatural and weird? Or does it work well?

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It does sound odd. I wouldn't use it like that, even if a case could be made that it is a synonym of effect or produce. And it certainly doesn't mean think of. –  Robusto Jan 10 '13 at 22:21
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Unnatural and weird. Did you consult a dictionary? –  GEdgar Jan 10 '13 at 22:21
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I did, and one of the definitions was: 2. To bring about; effect: procure a solution to a knotty problem. which has a similar meaning to my sentence. That's why I thought it would work. –  Blue Jan 10 '13 at 22:32
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Bring about is not the same as think of; this may be the root of the difficulty. –  TimLymington Jan 10 '13 at 22:37
    
in the examples you give, they're equivalent, but they play on minor senses of both phrases. –  jlovegren Jan 11 '13 at 0:46
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4 Answers

No, they are not equivalent.
It is indeed unnatural and weird.
You could use it if you were referring to something you had obtained or brought about, for example, 'He pulled out a gun. He had procured a proper way to fix his relationship'.
You wouldn't normally use it to refer to something you had simply 'thought of'.

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What if you actually applied it rather than just thinking of it? So, would "He applied a proper method to fix his relationship," be equivalent, or very close to equivalent, to "He procured a proper method to fix his relationship"? –  Blue Jan 10 '13 at 22:39
    
It still seems an, at best, unnatural usage. It doesn't mean 'applied'. –  MikeM Jan 10 '13 at 22:44
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@Blue, I would agree with Mike that although you might be able to convince us that it is correct in some legalistic sense, a modern educated American would probably read the sentence and think it was written at least 150 years ago. I think that's not the your goal. :) –  leoger Jan 11 '13 at 5:17
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It depends on what you're trying to say ultimately, I think procure is valid in use here, but the two sentences have a completely different thrust to them and so you'd need to pick which focus you'd prefer. They're not equivalent (as in, drop in replacements for each other) in my thoughts however.

  • In the first, due to the use of procure the focus is on the action phase, skipping the planning and concept phase. When you bring about something, there's a mild implication that you already know what you're planning to do.

  • In the second, the focus is on the the thinking of a proper solution, so there's no activity yet, there's just planning. There's no implication that you know what you're going to do.

Just to get rid of the ambiguity/common usage of procure as 'to get' (procurement orders and suchlike), consider the two sentences with the gun from @MikeM made explicit:

He procured a proper way to fix his relationship, the gun weighed heavily in his hands.

vs

He thought of a proper way to fix his relationship, the gun weighed heavily in his hands.

If you think of procure as meaning to bring about, then in the first, he's decided already on a plan of action, and the gun is the tool that he's going to use.

In the second, the gun might feature in the "proper way" that's being thought of but it could also be just a memory trigger. All that's strongly implied is that the gun is a factor in his thoughts.

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It is odd to use procure in that way in modern English.

According to Oxford English Dictionary (OED):

procure, v.

To obtain; to bring about.

And it is most often used in the sense of to obtain, for example:

He procured provisions for his lengthy trip.

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I've always understood "procure" to mean to buy, get, or obtain. Like, "I procured a new car" or "We procured some pencils from the supply room." In that sense I wouldn't say "He procured a way to fix the relationship." He didn't buy it or get it anywhere, he just ... invented ... it.

But upon reading your question I looked the word up on thefreedictionary.com and they give as definition #2, "to bring about; effect" with the example "procure a solution to a knotty problem". I have never heard or seen this usage. But that does seem quite similar to your example. So I guess, according to this dictionary anyway, your usage may be valid.

Still, I think most English-speakers would consider it odd. Unless you have some real reason to use the word in this context -- you want a rhyme or you want to parallel it with the same word in the previous sentence or something -- I'd just use a different word, like "thought of" or "devised".

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I tried to use 'procure' in my sentence based off of that definition and its example. But it seemed odd to me as well (which is why I asked, in case it was just me), so I guess I'll go with 'devise' (I considered it at first but didn't really like it in that sentence). –  Blue Jan 11 '13 at 0:36
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