8

The word "Converse" can certainly be used as a noun in other applications of English, but saying anything like that a participant in a conversation "had converse" is surely out of the question?

When you converse, you are having a conversation, or have a conversation (participation implies ownership), and afterward, you have conversed, and have had a conversation. There is - to me - no conceivable way to have or have had a "converse". Or, e.g. "your converse is heard in conversation". This can only be when you are discussing noun converses.

5
  • 4
    @MarkHubbard Converse is also the name of the statement or result of a mathematical or logical operation: the converse of the Pythagorean theorem. Feb 25, 2017 at 15:55
  • @SumelicThe verb, converse, is one for which two nouns are formed, one with the suffix, tion, and one without. I remember Sumelic supplied two examples for me, "construct" and "extract," when I fussed about "disconnect" as a substitute for "disconnection." Until "disconnect" acquires a meaning that differs from "disconnection," I'll continue to fuss.
    – Airymouse
    Feb 25, 2017 at 16:12
  • 4
    @StoneyB that's not correct: "In logic, the converse of a categorical or implicational statement is the result of reversing its two parts. For the implication P → Q, the converse is Q → P. For the categorical proposition All S is P, the converse is All P is S. In neither case does the converse necessarily follow from the original statement."
    – Andy
    Feb 25, 2017 at 21:49
  • @StoneyB also, the noun form of converse is pronounced with stress on the first syllable instead of the second.
    – Andy
    Feb 25, 2017 at 21:50
  • 1
    @StoneyB: Converse is also the name of a sporting goods/athletic shoe company, so that use would be a noun as well. And the pronounciation of a word depends on who's saying it: that's why English has so many regional variants.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 25, 2017 at 21:52

3 Answers 3

18

I wouldn't say it's "out of the question", but it's certainly out of this era. I have never heard converse used this way and it would certainly confuse many people.

But it was used like that:

archaic
Conversation.

  • ‘his converse at such seasons was always elevating’
  • ‘it will be difficult in these converses not to talk of secular matter’
    Oxford Dictionaries

I was able to find an NGram that mostly avoids false positives. As you can see, the usage has been declining:

Looking at the usage behind the graph (to weed out the false positives), it seems like usage stopped for the most part before 1900. OED.com specifically has this definition of converse listed as "poetic or rhetorical", which is why there are some usages well beyond 1900.

3
  • 1
    Converse might be confused with discourse, which also means conversation,  and has also been dropping in popularity over the past two centuries. Feb 26, 2017 at 0:24
  • Yes, @Scott, you are correct, but it has not dropped 1 mm in favour with me, and I used it almost daily. A great word.
    – ProfK
    Feb 26, 2017 at 2:21
  • @Scott The noun converse (meaning a verbal exchange) might also be confused with the rhyming noun commerce (meaning a physical exchange), although I guess I can't put my finger on when I'd say "commerce" in preference to "truck" or "dealings". Feb 26, 2017 at 17:52
9

In the sense related to conversations, you will find examples of "to hold converse" and "held converse" but I believe these to be either mostly archaic or, else, narrow uses within Biblical or spiritual (i.e., in the sense of communicating with spirits) contexts.

So you'll see things like, "God held converse with man, that man might learn to..." for example. If I were to encounter this in the wild in some other context, I would assume the writer was deliberately trying to evoke some connection with these spiritual uses.

Used as a noun, converse also means "the opposite; e.g., However, the converse of this theory may also be true." (Cambridge Dictionary)

1
  • It's just archaic. It doesn't hold any particular spiritual meaning. Feb 26, 2017 at 18:54
9

You don't have a converse. That is out of the question. But you 'have converse', at least if you are an 18th Century Puritan.

It would mean that you have ongoing or continual conversations, at least as it appears in laws of that time.

"It is treason to have converse with those known as Ranters" does not mean you cannot talk to them on the street once in while, but if you are in contact to a high degree, that is treason.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.