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  • The 19th century was marked by the abolition of slavery.
  • The 19th century marked the abolition of slavery.

Which is correct?

The meaning is that the abolition of slavery was an important event in the 19th century.

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    Welcome to the site. We like to help those who first try to help themselves. Have a look at dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/mark. Mark = to represent something that has happened in the past. It may work both ways: A may Mark B and B may mark A. If you still have difficulty, please edit your question to make your difficulty clear.
    – Anton
    Mar 22 at 22:24
  • It's not easy to find the 'is / commemorates the time/period when [some salient event] takes/took place' sense: M-W has 'this year marks our 50th anniversary' [Verb: 2c2 subsense]. But it exists (I'd say it sounds far better with anniversaries). Mar 23 at 16:57
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    They mean slightly different things, though the difference is hard to describe. Mainly it depends on which side you want to emphasize.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 31 at 0:55
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    I think I'd say "The 20th century was marked by a series of ethnic conflicts" but "1956 marked the end of British ambitions as a world power." It seems to relate to how many events and what the exact status is: a mark is a single point, but something can be marked by multiple things. It might also depend on if you're emphasising the point in time or the events.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 31 at 9:49
  • Why does one have to be correct? They mean different things. Mar 31 at 16:04

2 Answers 2

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I think that, while both may work, I would use the second option here. "Was marked by" has, to me, negative connotations - as if the abolition of slavery was some sort of a stain, a big negative thing that defined the century (a mark), which I, and most people (I hope) very much disagree with. The second option also seems more natural to me. If you wanted to talk about something negative you may choose to use the first option, but to me it really does just imply a large negative defining event. Perhaps that's just me though. Since both are grammatically correct it's ultimately up to you which you choose, I just thought I'd offer up my opinion. In a more academic context you might want to use option 1 purely because it is "more" correct - see j D3V's answer. But in general use both work.

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  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 31 at 1:29
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  1. The 19th century was marked by the abolition of slavery.
  2. The 19th century marked the abolition of slavery.

#1 is correct; #2 is incorrect.

#1 is the correct sentence because, the 19th century was most certainly marked by the abolition of slavery, however; the abolition of slavery was not marked by the 19th century (that might sound redundant, if it does, think about it).



To Help Clarify my Argument

I would also argue that the abolition of slavery was not significant because it happened in the 19th century, but rather, the 19th century was significant, because the abolition of slavery took place with-in the 19th century

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  • It's not easy to find the 'is / commemorates the time/period when [some salient event] takes/took place' sense in dictionaries, admittedly, but it exists, and M-W has 'this year marks our 50th anniversary' [Verb: 2c2 subsense]. Apr 30 at 18:20

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