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Is it correct to use against with mitigate as in this generic example?

Since this risk type is rapidly evolving, our department is working to clarify the definition of (product) to mitigate against this exposure in the future.

The original did not include "against" but a reviewer (not a communications person) suggested the insertion.

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    Personally I would not add the 'against' as it confuses the statement, mitigate is 'to lessen' therefore 'to lessen against the exposure'. Drop the 'against' and it will read just fine
    – nickson104
    Sep 4, 2015 at 13:57
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    Mitigate against is a confusion with militate against. Sep 4, 2015 at 14:47
  • I always took "mitigate against" as a confusion of "hedge against". To mitigate the problem one reduces the problem. When one hedges against a problem, they work to minimize the effects or protect themselves from the problem, but they don't really reduce the problem itself.
    – Jim
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:59

4 Answers 4

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The use of against here doesn't add much to the meaning of the sentence.

The usage, as per Google NGrams, seems to agree.

I'd leave it out.

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    Thanks, I wasn't even aware of this tool. One learns something new every day!
    – Andi-H
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:19
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"Mitigate against" is generally not accepted as proper usage. You should just use "mitigate".

mitigate against Usage Problem

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mitigate3

Incorrect: Dramatic action is required to mitigate against the devastating consequences of climate change.

Correct: Dramatic action is required to mitigate the devastating consequences of climate change.

http://aimpublishing.com/aimpub/word-usage/mitigate-mitigate-against

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As John Lawler notes in a comment above, the impetus to add against after mitigate comes from confusion of mitigate for militate. The meanings of the two words aren't especially similar. Here is the entry for mitigate in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003):

mitigate vt (15c) 1 : to cause to become less harsh or hostile : MOLLIFY {aggressiveness may be mitigated or ... channeled —Ashley Montagu} 2 a : to make less severe or painful : ALLEVIATE b : EXTENUATE

And here is the corresponding entry for militate:

militate vi (ca. 1600) : to have weight or effect {his boyish appearance militated against his getting an early promotion}

As you can see, the militate example is followed by against. In contrast, the mitigate example (for definition 1 of that term) doesn't follow mitigate with against, and in fact the example would sound quite bad with that addition. Moreover, none of the three single-word synonyms given for mitigate (namely, mollify, alleviate, and extenuate) is ever paired with against either.

Notwithstanding all of these points, the Eleventh Collegiate offers the following rather tendentious usage note regarding "mitigate against":

usage Mitigate is sometimes used as an intransitive (followed by against) where militate might be expected. Even though Faulkner used it {some intangible and invisible social force that mitigates against him —William Faulkner} and one critic thinks it should be called an American idiom, it is usu. considered a mistake.

In my opinion, the reason it is usu. considered a mistake is because it usu. is a mistake—including in the instance penned by the Olympian William Faulkner.

In the OP's example—

Since this risk type is rapidly evolving, our department is working to clarify the definition of (product) to mitigate [against] this exposure in the future.

—the sense of mitigate is probably the Eleventh Collegiate's definition 2(a) ("ALLEVIATE"). I see no reason whatsoever to add against after mitigate; nor can I find any rational basis for replacing mitigate with militate against. I recommend discarding the "American idiom" that your reviewer introduced and sticking with mitigate in its simple, unadorned, and correct form.

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  • In a 2009 survey involving an AHD usage panel, sizeable / very sizeable minorities (30% / 44%) did not reject different 'mitigate against' usages ('His relative youth might mitigate against him in a national election.' // 'What steps can the town take to mitigate against damage from coastal storms?') Apr 13, 2023 at 10:07
  • @EdwinAshworth: I'm not sure whether that change in usage vitiates against my argument of eight years ago or alleviates against it.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 13, 2023 at 16:35
  • Different usage panels don't always concur ... but I'd say that 'mitigate against' is mumpsimising. Apr 13, 2023 at 18:21
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The use of "against" in conjuction with "mitigate", i.e. "mitigate against", is absolutely incorrect. Since mitigate used alone indicates the lessening of the effects of something injurious, bad or unwanted the use of against is superfluous. This morning on BBC News someone who is a communications person committed this error. There was a time in the UK when the BBC was considered to be the bastion of correct English usage. That is no longer the case, it seems.

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    Hi Mab, this doesn't add anything new to the existing answers. Please go through those before answering. Please also take our Tour to get an idea of how this platform works. Welcome to ELU!
    – Joachim
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:03
  • Joachim, are you telling me off? I threw in my pennyworth because of the inclusion of "usually incorrect" in one comment which may suggest to some that there could be occasions when "mitigate against" would be considered correct. I wanted to convey that the construction "militate against" is always absolutely incorrect.
    – Mab Emrys
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:25
  • I'm not doing anything of the sort (my "welcome" should have suggested that :). I'm just saying that this adds very little to the existing answers, and that as such it is a comment, rather than an answer.
    – Joachim
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:29
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    Thank you for your welcome and I will take the tour.
    – Mab Emrys
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:38
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    Enough said. Thank you for welcoming me and I will endeavour to follow procedure.
    – Mab Emrys
    Apr 13, 2023 at 9:44

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