8

Are there any differences between "ascribe" and "attribute" when used as "because of"?

The following two sentences, which one sounds more natural?

The fall in the number of deaths from heart disease is generally attributed to improvements in diet.

The fall in the number of deaths from heart disease is generally ascribed to improvements in diet.

Thanks.

1
  • I wuold think not
    – mplungjan
    Jul 2, 2013 at 6:11

2 Answers 2

4

Whether they mean the same or not is easily ascertained:

[ODO]

ascribe verb [with object] (ascribe something to)
regard something as being due to (a cause):
he ascribed Jane’s short temper to her upset stomach

attribute verb [with object] (attribute something to)
regard something as being caused by:
he attributed the firm’s success to the efforts of the managing director
his resignation was attributed to stress

Which "sounds more natural" is a subjective question, but Ngrams can provide some objective data. In your sentences I would use attributed to, which happens to match Google's data, but others may disagree.

enter image description here

1
  • Thanks for the explanation. So you are saying they are pretty much the same... May 25, 2016 at 23:02
1

My subjective view is that ascribe has a negative connotation, where as attribute has a positive one.

he ascribed Jane’s short temper to her upset stomach. Short temper here, a negative trait. he attributed the firm’s success to the efforts of the managing director. Success, sth positive.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.