Is the following way to say "to give up one thing in order to get another thing" correct and idiomatic?

We should not compromise the existing differences for a unique theory.

Is the above use of compromise and for correct? If not, how else to say what I want to say?

  • Welcome to EL&U. Your first stop should be at a reputable dictionary. Then let us know if that does not help. Jul 29, 2019 at 18:15
  • Otherwise: perhaps sacrifice Verb 2 Give up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations. Jul 29, 2019 at 18:30
  • Perhaps something like, “One should not ignore the inherent differences when attempting to formulate a unifying theory.”
    – Jim
    Jul 30, 2019 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


Yes, it's fine.

Your usage of compromise corresponds to definition 2 in the Oxford Learner's Dictionary:

​[transitive, intransitive] to do something that is against your principles or does not reach standards that you have set

compromise something | I refuse to compromise my principles.

You can add a prepositional phrase headed by for to specify that you compromise one thing for another thing. For does a lot, as the Merriam Learner's Dictionary illustrates; two definitions that fits your use is:

3b : used to indicate why something is done

5a : in order to help or cause (something)

The understanding of exchange comes from the interaction between verb phrase and prepositional phrase. You could compromise something (meaning you lose it), and you could compromise for something (meaning you gain, help, or cause it); compromising something for something defines both what is being compromised and what is gained/helped/caused. So my understanding would be that you don't want your group to go against existing differences in order to help advance a unique theory.

In case that isn't enough, in a Corpus of Contemporary American English search I found several examples of your usage:

Well, she's doing it for the dollar. And when you compromise your values for money, you know who you are. (ABC's The View, January 21st, 2016)

We need to not compromise quality simply for the sake of structure. (Karen DeYoung, "How the White House Runs Foreign Policy." Washington Post, August 5th, 2015.)

Here, we remain vigilant about fraud and privacy, and rightly harangue Facebook when its wizards compromise our secrecy for commercial ends. (Julia Baird, "The Front Line is Online: Freedom Should Trump Privacy." Newsweek, June 14th, 2010.)

  • While you could use the word with the definition you provide, OP’s sentence does not do that. So in my opinion it’s not fine. The sentence is very unclear, and if I read it without OP’s explanation, i’d never arrive at its intended meaning.
    – Jim
    Jul 30, 2019 at 21:24

Ideally I would just write a comment and vote to close, instead of writing an answer, but what I have to say won't fit well in a comment box (in terms of both space and formatting), and furthermore there is an existing answer that is problematic, so here goes.

No. "Compromise the existing differences" doesn't work in the way that "compromise my principles" does. "Compromise my principles" is roughly equivalent to sacrifice / give up my principles. You can't sacrifice / give up existing differences.

There are existing differences. How can you "give up on" them?

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