I understand note as a verb means

  1. notice/heed
  2. mention/refer to
  3. take notes (note down)

But I found it confusing when it comes to the definition 1 and 2. Let's look at the sentences below.

  1. Please note that their valid ranges of usage were complementary. (=Please pay attention that...)
  2. We noted that their valid ranges of usage were complementary. (=We noticed/saw/knew/undertood that..)
  3. I wish to note that their valid ranges of usage were complementary. (=I wish to point out that...)
  4. The professor noted in class that their valid ranges of usage were complementary. (without context, I think this sentence can be understood as "The professor noticed that.." or "The professor mentioned that...)

Do I understand it correctly? Shall we pay special attention to the usage of "note" to avoid the ambiguity?

  • 2
    Example 4 would be the "pointed out/mentioned" sense because with the context of "in class" it's reasonable to assume the professor was addressing the class. – nnnnnn Jul 31 '20 at 5:13
  • What if without "in class"? Then can we tell whether the professor "pointed out" or "acknowledged" it? – Pedant Jul 31 '20 at 5:20
  • 1
    If you remove all context clues then you can't tell (same as with any other word that has multiple meanings), though if forced to guess I would still interpret it as the "pointed out" sense. – nnnnnn Jul 31 '20 at 5:27
  • @nnnnnn Until you said it, that's not the interpretation I had. On reading the sentence the first time, I immediately thought that they realized something while teaching class. ("… and here we see that—oh, my, it's different than I've always thought!") The context doesn't necessitate your interpretation, and I think the specific syntax alone makes the other one more likely (at least to me). – Jason Bassford Jul 31 '20 at 9:09
  • @JasonBassford - Sure. This is why we need more context to really know. I do see both interpretations, of course. – nnnnnn Jul 31 '20 at 9:29

If you look it up in Merriam-Webster, it is clearly explained that "note" as a verb could have the following 4 basic meanings: 1. notice 2. record in writing 3. mention 4. show

So, it is the context that tells us which of the meanings it bears.

You may want to check out this link for details: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/note


1 and 2 above both refer to a more detailed observation; either it stood out to the observer (2), or the audience should take care to make it stand out to them (1). The subject helps disambiguate the meaning here, because it identifies who acted or to whom the action happened.


The professor noted in class that their valid ranges of usage were complementary.

Most people who read this would assume that the professor was mentioning it or pointing it out for their students. If the professor noticed it for the first time in class, i.e. had a sudden epiphany about it, it would probably be phrased with a different verb, e.g.:

The professor realized in class that their valid ranges of usage were complementary.

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