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There is already a similar question but doesn't answer me. My teacher distributed answer sheets today and I felt aggrieved because I was not evaluated properly and deserved more marks. I gave the paper back to teacher and asked for re-evaluation. To this my teacher said:

If I find you deserve more marks, I will award you more marks; not reward you with more marks.

Is this simply a punch dialogue? Is there any grammatical meaning to what my teacher said?

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  • "Grammatical meaning?" Are you asking if her answer is grammatical English? (It is, although your punctuation is suspect). If you mean "Does her answer make logical sense?", that has nothing to do with grammar. An illogical answer can be grammatical and a logical one ungrammatical.
    – itsbruce
    Jul 16, 2014 at 11:19
  • @itsbruce You are obviously choosing to ignore the sense rather awkwardly given by RHK Webster's: grammatical (2): conforming to the rules of grammar or standard usage: Jul 16, 2014 at 11:25
  • No, @EdwinAshworth, I'm not ignoring it at all. I suspect Indian.student's question is unintentionally ambiguous and am asking for clarification. Since the potential for ambiguity clearly exists, I think this is being helpful.
    – itsbruce
    Jul 16, 2014 at 11:33
  • I don't like the semicolon here. That aside, it's a matter of semantics rather than syntax (itsbruce is really pointing this out). 'Award' and 'reward' are certainly synonyms (ie they are swappable in certain cases). 'Award' is further away from the 'giving a great prize for truly astounding feat' end of the spectrum, so 'award' is to be preferred here. Perhaps your teacher would have preferred 'merit' to your 'deserve'. Sounds a bit fussy to me. Jul 16, 2014 at 11:34
  • @itsbruce 'Standard usage' even grades into preferred styles. 'Grammar' is ill-defined in the dictionaries. Jul 16, 2014 at 11:35

2 Answers 2

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Your teacher draws a very nice distinction between award and reward.

To award you marks implies that you have earned them and are entitled to them, while to reward you with marks implies that your teacher makes a gift of them to you, out of his or her own bounty, in recognition of your excellence.

There is no bright line between the two terms, and in colloquial speech they may be used interchangeably. Generally, however, award is used when a prize or recognition is accorded as the result of a considered judgment—the decisions of a court are always awards, not rewards—and reward is used for spontaneous gifts—children are always rewarded with treats.

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The distinction is between on the one hand awarding marks based on the real merit of the paper (as judiciously reconsidered), and on the other rewarding your behavior in kicking up a fuss about the initial marking, in such a way as to encourage you, and others who hear about this, to do likewise in the future—something the teacher does at all not wish to encourage.

M-W s.v. award

to give by judicial decree or after careful consideration

The relevant sense of reward as a verb is not explicitly given in M-W but is implicit in one definition of the noun:

a stimulus administered to an organism following a correct or desired response that increases the probability of occurrence of the response

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