In my English workbook there is an exercise to match words with their description. I'm confused by the following match that've been made by the authors (I checked it in answers section):

implement - make something that has been decided start to happen

bring about - make something happen

There are examples: implement a change, bring about change.

As for me, implementation sounds more like a whole process from beginning to the end, so I opted for the opposite match.

So could someone please dispel my doubts and explain the difference? Would you agree with such descriptions of the words?

  • The two definitions are not the same. How can we tell what "matches" what? You don't provide any information about that.
    – Lambie
    Jun 28 '18 at 17:05

Bring about is broader, meaning

cause to happen

One way they can bring about political change is by putting pressure on the country.


The agent, as here, may be volitional, but natural causes are equally possible:

The first rain in months brought about mudslides when it hit [areas] that were scorched by ... December's large wildfires.


Implement needs a volitional agent, as it means

put into practical effect; carry out: implement the new procedures {AHD}


carry out; put into action; perform: implement a plan {Collins}

There needs to be a plan / set of rules already in existence, which are put into effect (implemented).


'Change' works with either verb, as it may but need not imply a pre-existing goal.


regarding telicity

Macmillan does not insist that bring about obligatorily refers to a completed effect. Though it gives

bring about

to make something happen, especially to cause changes in a situation

it adds the possibility of an inchoative rather than a telic interpretation:

related words: to make something start to exist or happen: ... trigger ...


For implement, ODO seems only to license a telic (completed change) usage:

implement verb [with object]

Put (a decision, plan, agreement, etc.) into effect.

though CED seems to add an inchoative licensing

to start using a plan or system: The changes to the national health system will be implemented next year.

So while 'implementation means a whole process from beginning to end, a done deal, the completed transformation' (which goes beyond what you're saying) bears thinking about, it is over-prescriptive. I'd say 'bring about' is at least as telically orientated.

  • 'Change' works with either verb - what will be a case when one should be preferred over the other? I can't catch the subtle difference in meaning when the words are put in the same sentence.
    – Lia
    Jun 29 '18 at 8:15
  • 'The ice ages brought about vast changes in the geology of the area' / 'We need to implement these [proposed] changes without further delay'. Jun 29 '18 at 8:27
  • Couldn't it be said: We need to bring about these [proposed] changes without further delay'?
    – Lia
    Jun 29 '18 at 8:33
  • Not if they're changes to the law, say. Use 'We need to implement these newly made changes to the law without further delay' as an unequivocal example. // But I realise that I haven't addressed telicity (related to whether 'implementation sounds more like [it involves] a whole process from beginning to the end' is correct), so I'll add this to the answer. Jun 29 '18 at 8:45

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.