In the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries, conversion means "the act or process of changing something from one form, use or system to another."

How to understand this "something"? If someone changed his behaviour, is it valid to say "the conversion of his act surprised me"?

  • 1
    The sth is an abbreviation for something. You convert something from one form, use, or system to another something. Form: You convert lead to gold. Use: You convert the use of the heel of a shoe to the use of a hammer. System: You convert a measurement in inches to a measurement in centimeters.
    – rajah9
    Jan 7, 2016 at 13:57
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    Related: What is meant by "sth"?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jan 7, 2016 at 14:08
  • what I am saying is some intangible things like manner, tone. Can they be converted?@Kit @rajah9
    – Li haonan
    Jan 8, 2016 at 0:33
  • Yes, if someone is loud and rude, his manner and tone might undergo a conversion, say, when speaking to his boss. King Lear says: "How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little, Lest it may mar your fortunes." (Act 1, Scene 1) He is asking her for a conversion of her manner and tone to something more ornate and loving (toward him).
    – rajah9
    Jan 8, 2016 at 14:26
  • Normally "conversion" would not be used in that sense. When one speaks of "conversion" with regard to a person it generally reflects a major change in attitude/beliefs, as when someone is "converted" to a different religion.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 7, 2016 at 19:09

3 Answers 3


As a native speaker of English, if I heard someone say "the conversion of his act surprised me" I would be confused, so I wouldn't recommend using "conversion" like this. Conversion when applied to people tends to have a religious meaning, e.g. he converted to Roman Catholicism.

I also have a problem with "act" in this sentence because an "act" is a one time event but "behavior" is an ongoing pattern. If you're talking about someone's behavior you can't use act as a synonym.


It isn't common in everyday English speech to use conversion as a synonym for change in the sense of "difference." For example, we would be far less likely to say

Everyone noticed the conversion in his behavior after the incident on the freeway.

than to say

Everyone noticed the change in his behavior after the incident on the freeway.


Everyone noticed the difference in his behavior after the incident on the freeway.

or perhaps

Everyone noticed the alteration in his behavior after the incident on the freeway.

Conversion is much more likely to be used in connection with the event of switching from one state of action or belief to another than in connection with the resulting difference in behavior. So we might use conversion in a situation like this one:

After his conversion to an alcohol-free lifestyle, we noticed a change [not "a conversion"] in his attitude toward school.


"the conversion of his act surprised me"

Technically this is incorrect to say since the original act was not converted so much as replaced with a different act. For example, say you have a cup of milk. Say then that you pour out the milk and fill the cup with orange juice. Was the milk converted to orange juice, or was the milk replaced with orange juice? While liquid water can be converted to steam, it would have to be replaced with oil.

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