Which of the following is correct?

This idea is manifest in two influential theories.

This idea is manifested in two influential theories.

What I want to say is that there is a common idea underlying both theories.

  • Is what you want the informal equivalent of two theories sharing the same axiom or theorem, i.e. that one idea follows from both theories? – N.N. Oct 7 '11 at 12:04
  • Yes, both theories are derived from the same idea. – thias Oct 7 '11 at 12:05
  • Are you in any way prevented from saying just that instead, i.e. "that both theories are derived from the same idea"? – N.N. Oct 7 '11 at 12:08
  • No, I can always re-formulate my sentence. I was just curious how to use "manifest". I guess it came to me because of my linguistic origin (german). In german it sounds rather nice, I think. – thias Oct 7 '11 at 12:11
  • If you want the same structure maybe you could swap manifest* for fundamental? – N.N. Oct 7 '11 at 12:18

As Colin noted, 'manifest' works as an adjective, and 'manifested' as a past participle, in your example sentences. That 'manifest' connotes clearly visible has been mentioned in several comments, making 'manifest' unsuitable if manifestation of the idea in the theories is less than obvious.

As you seem to be seeking a fine-sounding way to say that two theories incorporate or are anchored upon the same idea, you might try 'immanent', an adjective meaning "naturally part of something; existing throughout and within something; inherent; integral; intrinsic; indwelling". For example, "This idea is immanent in two influential theories."

'Embody' (verb tr., "To include or represent, especially as part of a cohesive whole") also might work: "This idea is embodied in two influential theories."

'Intrinsic (adj., "innate, inherent, inseparable from the thing itself, essential") (or one of those synonyms, innate, inherent, inseparable, essential) would emphasize that the idea is critical: "This idea is an intrinsic part of two influential theories."

If the idea's influence on the theories is quite thoroughgoing, but not quintessential or foundational, then perhaps look at forms of permeate, pervade, saturate, imbue.

  • I think I'm going to use "embody" rather than "manifest". Thanks for the detailed answer! – thias Oct 10 '11 at 7:30

"Manifest" is an adjective, meaning "clearly visible".

"Manifest" is also a verb, meaning "make visible", which has a past participle "manifested".

So both are grammatical, with hardly any difference in meaning. (Perhaps "manifested" would imply that somebody or something is doing the manifesting").

However, I'm not sure that either of them means what you want to say, because "manifest" has this sense of being clearly visible, not just being there. Perhaps "inherent" would be better?

  • I agree, neither quite means the idea underlies the theories. But it probably works anyway, so long as it doesn't subtly underlie them. – David Schwartz Oct 7 '11 at 18:05

How about "This idea manifests in two influential theories?" I have a feeling the three formulations have subtle differences, but I can't put my finger on them.

  • Ah yes, the unaccusative (or "middle") use of the verb. Yes, that is possible as well, though I don't like it myself. – Colin Fine Oct 10 '11 at 10:41
  • This is what I was actually thinking of when writing the sentences. Thanks for pointing that out (even though I'm going to stick with one of the other solutions :-)... – thias Oct 12 '11 at 9:55

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