9

A student of mine has asked me if there is any difference, both in meaning and usage, between point of view and viewpoint. Now, according to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, there is indeed no difference in their meaning.

Point of view

  1. a particular way of thinking about or judging a situation
  2. someone's own personal opinion or attitude about something

Viewpoint

  1. a particular way of thinking about a problem or subject [= point of view]
  2. a place from which you can see something

However I could not ascertain whether there was any difference in usage from the examples provided. Personally, I find "point of view" much more familiar and "viewpoint" often awkward when I try to compare their use, for example:

  • It was seen from a child's point of view.
  • It was seen from a child's viewpoint.

But that's a highly impressionist take based on my exposure to the terms and one mustn't forget I'm not a native speaker, which means my impression could be eschewed.

So, is there any usage particulars concerning the two terms?

6

In your example, a child's point of view can only be understood in one way, while a child's viewpoint could be construed as meaning "from a vantage point closer to the floor than that of an adult", so I would prefer the former.

3

Point of view is more than three times more frequent than viewpoint in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. That shows a clear preference, particularly when you consider that some of the instances of viewpoint will doubtless be in the sense ‘a place from which you can see something’.

The preference for point of view may in part be simply because viewpoint has that other sense which point of view does not have. Those who use the latter to describe a particular way of thinking about something will not go wrong.

  • Well, that certainly explains why it sounded awkward to me. What about usage? Is it exactly the same or are there any 'sentence constructions' that would work only for one or the other possibility, independently of preference? – Sara Costa Sep 13 '13 at 14:23
  • 1
    I can't think of any, but someone else may be able to. – Barrie England Sep 13 '13 at 14:26
  • 1
    Barrie, I meant to mention this more promptly: Your relpy-comment emboldened me to provide an answer. Thank you! – Ellie Kesselman Sep 19 '13 at 14:16
3

I prefer "point of view" rather than "viewpoint", for physical and conceptual expression. These examples support usage of "point of view" in a physical, rather than conceptual context:

  • Films and video games use "point of view", or the shortened form, "PoV".
  • Some graphical interfaces use a "heads up display" (HUD) described in terms of point of view.
  • In physics, certain problems have two solutions, depending on the "frame of reference". That is analogous to "point of view".

Despite these examples, I prefer point of view, because it is used more often, and is always understood.

  • 1
    PoV in the physical senses you discuss tends to be more specialised, and context may be less of an issue than viewpoint - which in the sense the question doesn't want is quite common on maps, signs and the like. – Chris H Sep 13 '13 at 14:43
1

to make this choice as simple as possible remember this; one is a opinion <--point of view

the other is a location, a position from which one observes and reports <--view point: the mental place you choose to mentally "sit" and observe in order to respond to or write about the situation.

1

I think you can also make an aesthetic choice on occasion. For example:

  1. "It is our desire to introduce people to a wide range of points of view."
  2. "It is our desire to introduce people to a wide range of viewpoints."

The second one sounds better because it's less cumbersome, yet still means the same.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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