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After searching in dictionaries, I have found that the phrasal verb 'deal with' is informal and its formal equivalent can be, among others, 'to handle'. However, when I searched for the verb 'to treat', I did not find any reference saying that the verb is informal (in Oxford Thesaurus of English, Pocket Oxford American Dictionary, and Chambers Universal Learners' Dictionary...they all consider it formal/neutral).

though I think it would be very informal to say in academic writing (as am writing an academic disssertation) 'to treat the situation' instead of 'to handle/or to manage the situation'. I think it is informal to be used academically. What do you think?

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I think that saying to treat the situation is not idiomatic; it isn't something a native speaker would say. To handle the situation sounds much better. To deal with and to manage the situation are also fine.

Now that I have thought about it again, I feel that there is a subtle difference between handling a situation/dealing with a situation and managing a situation. Handling/dealing with a situation give more of a sense of fixing the situation while managing a situation sounds like you are just trying to make sure it doesn't get any worse.

Also I don't agree that to deal with is more informal than to handle. You can use both interchangeably.

  • "treat" also carries with it a suggestion of treating an injury or illness – Xanne Jun 20 '17 at 20:52
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The sentences

    To treat the situation with care.

    To handle the situation carefully.

    To deal with the situation adroitly.

are all valid. I wouldn't consider one to be less suitable in an academic paper than the others.

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