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Is the verb reduce used incorrectly in the sentence below? Would you personally choose to replace reduce with an alternative such as drop or fall?

The birth rate has reduced over the past 10 years.

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  • Personally, I'd go with decreased, but fallen isn't wrong, and dropped might be used if the fall was precipitous and it was your intention to point that out.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 16:39
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    Oh dear, I see you have reduced since we met last! Been dieting?
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 14:05
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    v.intr. 1. To become diminished. 2. To lose weight, as by dieting. 3. Biology To undergo meiosis. thefreedictionary.com/reduce
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 14:06
  • Some EFL books say reduced should only be used with object, along with raise (rise being commonly contrasted with raised as verbs which are "often confused"). That's what prompted the question. To my ear it doesn't sound ideal in the above sentence. Thanks for replies.
    – Sjb
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 19:32

2 Answers 2

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Reduce may be used as a transitive or intransitive verb.

The birth rate has reduced/dropped/fallen over the past ten years

are all correct. Here reduce is used intransitively.

He reduced the number of mistakes from ten to five.

Here reduce is used transitively.

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I grew up in England, spent my 20s and 30s in Belgium and the Netherlands and have lived in the USA for the last 20 years.

I don't recall hearing the intransitive use of "reduce" in England when I was growing up, but I notice it now when I return there each year. It sounds horrible to me. I would use "decrease" or "fall" instead.

I never hear the intransitive use of "reduce" in the US.

I would also point out that the French verb "reduire" -- presumably the source of reduce in English -- is a transitive verb.

Let's kill off "reduce" as a transitive verb!

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  • As an American, I can't recall ever hearing someone using "reduce" as an intransitive verb.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 11:50

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