I'd like to express the concept that someone prefers trusting facts in lieu of interpretations. I'm no native speaker, so I've checked several websites for the idiom but with no result. Is it possible to say

he favours/privileges facts over interpretations

What will be the best way to express the concept? Thank you.

  • Look for sceptic rationalist, maybe helpful.
    – NVZ
    Jan 13, 2017 at 9:55
  • 'i'll believe it when i see it'?
    – JMP
    Jan 13, 2017 at 10:03
  • A doubting Thomas is an idiomatic expression you may use: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubting_Thomas
    – user66974
    Jan 13, 2017 at 10:19
  • Thanks for your replies! If I want to keep it as a phrase, is "favours facts over interpretations" acceptable to a native speaker?
    – Marlowe
    Jan 13, 2017 at 10:26
  • 1
    @BoldBen yes, I should probably clarify the context. I am discussing a certain phenomenon, and I want to stress that the discourse about it (its representations, interpretations etc) is more important than what actually happened (the facts). In this sense, I would like to say my research favours interpretations over facts (I put the opposite in the OP example because it was easier to understand), but I don't know if it's acceptable.
    – Marlowe
    Jan 15, 2017 at 16:15

3 Answers 3


"He favours facts over interpretations."

is totally fine to use.

Alternately :

"He prefers concrete facts over guesses and interpretations."

Or perhaps "verifiable facts"

Similar :

"He doesn't like to make assumptions beyond the proven facts he's been given."

--- edit ---

Just remembered one I like a lot.

"She prefers known facts rather than jumping to conclusions."

"If someone jumps to conclusions, they decide too quickly that something is true, when they do not know all the facts."

To clarify a bit.

The word "interpretation" is used in different situations (from explaining the finding of a scientific study ... to explaining what a piece of art means). But it always implies a personal understanding or guess, rather than presenting a series of known facts.

Interpretation used to mean :

A personal explanation or understanding of a series of facts
-- sometimes wrong or misinterpreted.

The way a person interpreted or understood the information they saw.

"To be polite, he gestured for a high-five. His friend --unfamiliar with high-fives-- interpreted this as a rude gesture for rejection and was offended."

"After reading the study, he understood it to mean that cigarettes do not cause cancer.
But that was just his interpretation.

He showed it to his friend, who pointed out a paragraph he had misread."

Interpretation used to mean :

A hypothesis inspired by information or
an inference to explain meaning behind known facts

Taking the information given, and assuming that it implies something else must also be true
(despite having no evidence connecting the facts to the new idea).

"He had smoked for years, but still didn't have cancer.
He interpreted this to mean that cigarettes liked him, and would not give him cancer."

"She interpreted the main character's silence at the end of the book to mean that the character did in fact know where the treasure was buried, but wasn't going to tell anyone."

The following is a real-life example of a bad interpretation
that tried to explain a known fact :

Before the Olympics all Olympians are tested to make sure they're not using drugs for an unfair advantage.

Fact :
In 2010 Jake Gibb's urine test had abnormally high levels of beta-hCG.

Interpretation :
"He must be using steroids." So he was suspended from competing.

New Fact :
Jake Gibb was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"According to the scientific literature, elevated beta-hCG levels can be the result of testicular cancer."

In the end he was allowed to compete.



Perhaps, grounded in fact helps.


grounded in (actual) fact
Fig. based on facts.
This movie is grounded in fact.
The stories in this book are all grounded in actual fact.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

  • Thanks @alwayslearning ! Actually, I wanted to keep the opposition facts v interpretations, if possible. If you are a native speaker, how does "favours facts over interpretations" sound to you?
    – Marlowe
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:42

Just saw your opposite version in your comment under the OP :

"I want to stress that the discourse about it (its representations, interpretations etc) is more important than what actually happened (the facts). In this sense, I would like to say my research favours interpretations over facts"

For this scenario, saying "this research favours interpretations over facts" might be the best way to put it succinctly. I don't know of any idioms that mean the same.

Or perhaps "The possibilities that could explain these facts are more important to investigate/follow up on/discuss than the facts themselves."

The following phrase might help you :

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

From the Collins Dictionary:

"If you say that something is more than the sum of its parts or greater than the sum of its parts, you mean that it is better [or different] than you would expect from the individual parts, because the way they combine adds a different quality."

In mathematics, this is not true.

But an assembled car can accomplish more
than its parts just lying on the ground, unassembled.

The human mind + the experience of being alive itself
takes place in the individual neurons of the brain.
But the whole mind --and your experience itself--
is more than just the sum of atoms alone.

An excellent example of this from Philosophy of Mind
is the thought experiment called "Mary's Room".

The thought experiment goes like this :

Mary lives her entire life in a room devoid of colour—she has never directly experienced colour in her entire life, though she is capable of it. Through black-and-white books and other media, she is educated on neuroscience to the point where she becomes an expert on the subject. Mary learns everything there is to know about the perception of colour in the brain, as well as the physical facts about how light works in order to create the different colour wavelengths. It can be said that Mary is aware of all physical facts about colour and colour perception.

After Mary’s studies on colour perception in the brain are complete, she exits the room and experiences, for the very first time, direct colour perception. She sees the colour red for the very first time, and learns something new about it — namely, what red looks like.

When Mary experiences colour for the first time:
She learns no new science. She learns no new facts about colour. But she discovers what it is like to experience colour for the first time -- even though she already knows all the scientific facts about colours.

So in this example,

discussing + interpreting what happens when Mary sees a colour for the first time

is much more than just describing the facts (physics of light and atoms).

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