I am writing an essay about time and its characteristics. In the introduction, I have a sentence, "It [time] became one of those rare things people evaluate as priceless."

As far as I am concerned, here, it is more appropriate and natural to use value as instead of evaluate as.

I have approached two questions:

  1. Is there a major difference between these two verbs in this context?

  2. Do any of variants sound okay? Or are there better ways to build the sentence?


  • 1
    This is really a matter of opinion -- what "tone" the writer wishes to convey.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 1:17
  • I agree with your preference, but since to evaluate can also mean to measure so as to assign a numeric value to, the original's "evaluate as priceless" is strikingly oxymoronic--whether intentionally or not I cannot guess. Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 14:53
  • @BrianDonovan, I opted for value as if my memory serves me right. Evaluate as does have this oxymoronic effect, which adds some sort of connotation to the sentence. Thank you for your concern. Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 9:13

2 Answers 2


Welcome to EL&U, Blein. There is some apparent overlap in the meaning of these words but really they are quite different.

The Oxford Learner's Dictionary defines the verb to value as meaning

to think that somebody/something is important


to decide that something is worth a particular amount of money

The same dictionary defines to evaluate as

to form an opinion of the amount, value or quality of something after thinking about it carefully

The second definition of to value is superficially similar to the first part of the definition of to eveluate but, in fact, to evaluate describes a more considered and lengthier process and in the majority of cases evaluating something cansiders more aspects of it than simply valuing it.

Moving away from the definitions which involve setting a price on something the meanings of the words diverge considerably: evaluating something becomes more involved, more formal and, usually, more analytical but valuing something becomes more emotional, less formal and more intuitive.

As examples a surveyor might value a property at, say, £250,000 he will do this using his skill and judgement, and taking into account the characteristics of the building and his knowledge of the local market. A potential purchaser, however, will evaluate its suitability for his purposes taking into account the size, layout, closeness to local schools and even the style before deciding whether or not to make an offer on it. This is where the definitions are similar but even here the purchaser is taking more than the monetary value assigned by the surveyor into account.

Examples of the other definitions are: 1) A researcher may evaluate the results of a drug trial and decide whether it is effective at treating its target disease. She will take into consideration the reduction in severity of the conditions, the severity of any side effects, the acceptability of the drug to the patient and many other factors. This is a formal, time consuming process. 2) She may, however, value the work of a colleague in an intuitive and emotional way. This will require little or no analytical thinking.

That is the difference: your sentence suggests value rather than evaluate to me as the process of arriving at the sense of valuing the work is not formal, however I would avoid using either word and say "...people consider to be priceless" instead.

  • Despite my +1, I don’t think your account captures one key feature of the question. You are right that to ‘value’ has an emotional element (if we leave out the surveyor and others assessing monetary value). ‘valuing’ something entails a willingness to act in accordance with what you value (other than buying it, as I have said!). A cynic is a person who, in the words of Lord Darlington in Wilde’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan, “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”. If I value your advice, I am likely to take it. If I value the rights of others, I am likely to respect them.
    – Tuffy
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 8:54

Etymologically speaking, the difference resides in their distinct adverbial features:

  1. Value, as a word without an adverb, assumes the default connotation (the word without context modification) of 'assign worth' in absolute terms.
  2. Evaluate, being the word value prefixed by the adverb ex (out), assumes the connotation of assign worth in external/contextual/relative terms.

Moving this into the action itself, we can see that the action to...

  1. Value something, carries the connotation of being non-contextual for the actor doing the valuation. That which the actor values is done without external sources of influence for the actor. As examples, a person may value:

    • Freedom
    • Relationships
    • Money
    • Possessions
  2. Evaluate something, it carries the connotation of being contextual. The actor does the evaluation against a system of measurement; which serves as the external context used by the actor to assign quantifiable worth to something. Examples, a person evaluates...

    • Options, against expected outcome
    • Theories, against evidence
    • Possibilities, against probabilities
    • Grades, against scoring system

So, in your case time is valued by people in personal terms, unless they are evaluating it within a context; for example people may evaluate the time it takes to complete a project.

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