“Make a decision” or “Take a decision”…
… that is the question
As a non-English native speaker, I learned that in English you say make a decision, instead of take a decision, which would be the natural choice for a Spanish speaker like me. This is also the choice for speakers of Swedish and other Latin languages such as Italian, French and Portuguese, due to language interference.
As a teacher of English as a Foreign Language now, I have spent over 20 years teaching that make a decision is the correct collocation, and correcting students who would say otherwise.
During the Coronavirus outbreak, I have watched the news on a daily basis. I haven’t missed a single press conference! Something that has struck and puzzled me was politicians and government officials saying, ‘we have taken the decision…’
Oh! I haven’t mentioned that I live in the UK, so, naturally, I am referring to British politicians…
One evening, I asked my husband, who is an English native speaker, ‘Is it make or take a decision?’ He thought, and after a few times of repeating it out loud, he said, ‘it’s to make a decision’.
So, why is it that I keep hearing politicians and government officials say “take a decision”? At first, I thought, ‘It must be “politicianese”‘ (I’m being creative here 😉), meaning the way politicians speak, trying to impress the public … But then I noticed that both expressions are used in relation to government officials. I’ve paid closer attention and realised there is a slight difference in meaning.
Let’s see some examples:
This was really puzzling me, so I decided to do a bit of research and look into this collocation. Is it “to make a decision”, or “to take a decision”?
In grammatical terms, a collocation is defined as the combination of words formed when two or more words are often used together in a way that sounds correct. In layman’s terms, this is a word or phrase that is often used with another word or phrase, in a way that sounds correct to people who have spoken the language all their lives. For example, we say:
In this sense, we can say that the noun “decision” collocates with the verb “make”.
I searched in grammar books and on various articles and bogs online, and I finally arrived at the following conclusion.
While the core meaning of both expressions are the same, the examples above show there is a slight difference in meaning.
It’s more common to hear make a decision, which can refer to
The phrase take a decision, on the other hand, refers to the decisive moment itself, and not to the process leading up to it. It has more formal connotation, and an implication that the decision will have serious consequences, and that the person deciding is responsible for them. It has a sense of finality about it.
Examples 1-4 above illustrate the use of make a decision, whereas 5-8 illustrate the former, which is also reflected in the phrase decision-making process.
Some argue that this is only a regional variation, i.e., UK vs. US English; however, we could discuss this in a future blog.
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