My daughter's English teacher insists that synonyms for "turn up" and "turn down" (volume)do not include the words increase and decrease. We wondered if we had been using increase and decrease incorrectly for years or....?

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    The damage that prissy, prescriptive English teachers have done to children with their silly shibboleths and their rigid grammatical bondage is incalculable. You know, I actually blame them for some of the errors you hear nowadays, such as the misuse of case: "It was a gift for Sally and I." I don't think people would ever use that if they hadn't been harshly corrected in their formative years for using constructions like "Me and Billy were outside playing." – Robusto Feb 27 '11 at 20:28
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    Hey your question made me realize that volume can be pumped in only one direction - up. – Lee Kowalkowski Feb 27 '11 at 21:49
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    youtube.com/watch?v=eGPhUr-T6UM – mplungjan Feb 27 '11 at 22:19
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    +100000 to Robusto for that comment – Adam Feb 28 '11 at 1:40
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    @ShreevatsaR: It's the wrongness, but also the rigidity and the tight constraints they place on the use of language while not understanding how it really works. Punishing children every time they say "ain't" just ain't the way to go. – Robusto Feb 28 '11 at 11:10

Your daughter's English teacher is nuts. Sound volume certainly may be increased or decreased (as a non-countable mass noun). Possibly the teacher may be focusing on the setting on the volume control as distinct from the sound volume itself, but even if so that doesn't hold much water; even if the setting is a countable quantity, we still speak of those as being increased or decreased.

I really want to know the teacher's detailed reasoning behind this assertion, because it seems nonsensical as given.

  • +1, although I'm sure it's more to do with stupidity than insanity. – bye Feb 27 '11 at 22:11
  • You can also raise and lower (increase/decrease) the sound level by moving closer to or further from the source of the sound. – Kevin Fegan Jul 8 '18 at 0:04

Your daughter's English teacher could very easily open a dictionary and find that she's incorrect:

Turn something up 1 increase the volume or strength of sound, heat, etc., by turning a knob or switch on a device. 2 reveal or discover something : New Yorkers confidently expect the inquiry to turn up nothing. 3 shorten a garment by raising the hem.


Sound volume could also be refered to as the measure of the pressure generated by a sound in decibels. As the measured result of the actions turn up and turn down the synonyms increase and decrease make complete sense. I think that the teacher needs to re-evaluate their ability for critical reasoning.

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