I'm looking for two adjectives to describe outcomes or actions that follow from a decision. The decision is usually a choice between doing nothing, or choosing to act. Please suggest words for:

  • < A >: Adjective that describes the "boring, status quo, do not act, let things run their course" choice.
  • < B >: Adjective that describes the "actually we need to do something here" choice.

Here are a couple examples:

We're going to have a talk about dealing with those rude neighbours who keep parking in our space. The < B > case will require me to confront them face to face, while the < A > case allows me to avoid conflict, which is appealing to me since I'll be moving out soon anyway.


I have decided to quit my job, leave town, and move to Prince Edward Island! I've thought about it, and the < A > action would have me just growing old, sharpening pencils in my current routine. Although my < B > resolution is scary (I'll have to leave my friends and home), there's a unique opportunity for adventure and discovery that I want to pursue.

I've thought about words like

  • "Default" (What is a word that means "the outcome resulting from a lack of action"?), which doesn't really have a meaningful opposite ("user selected"), and
  • the phrases "Null Hypothesis" and "Alternative Hypothesis", which sound kind of like what I'm looking for. But I think phrases like "null case" and "alternative outcome" are liable to confuse or mislead the audience.
  • 1
    Well, there's "proactive" and "reactive".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 23:41
  • <Chuck Norris>, <Caspar Milquetoast>
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 23:43
  • 1
    I think I'd just use "not doing it" and "doing it" in your sentences. "Doing something will require me to confront them, while not doing anything allows me to avoid conflict," and something similar for the second example. Adjectives for those are hard.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 0:04
  • I think you are asking on the wrong site (ELU). Ask Philosophy.. Like motion and time in Einstein’s theory of relativity, so action and inaction are relative. Even the idea that a decision causes an action is a debated matter. Words will not help.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


In the medical field, you'll find the term watch-and-wait, which describes a deliberate choice to do nothing until the situation develops further. This approach is used, for example, in indolent cancers that aren't yet causing problems or symptoms for the patient. The problem is known and understood, but the risks associated with taking action are high enough that at least for now, it's better to do nothing. There is an implication that the problem will be consistently monitored, though, so there is not a sense of "finality" in this course of action - you may still decide to take action in the future (it's not a commitment to taking no action). The opposite of this is called an intervention, which is some deliberate action taken to change the course a disease. Both of these terms could be used more generally to describe the choice between taking action and doing nothing.

  • Ooh, I like that. I wish the word "interventative" was a thing, that would probably be the opposite of "default" that I'm looking for.
    – ESPeach
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 21:32
  • @ESPeach I think the word you're looking for is interventional. Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 21:34

I would suggest Passive and Aggressive.

  • 2
    ...or passive and active (since the action might not be viewed as aggressive). Commented Jan 13, 2020 at 16:55

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