Home Grammar The Grammarphobia Weblog: Let’s liven issues up

The Grammarphobia Weblog: Let’s liven issues up

The Grammarphobia Weblog: Let’s liven issues up


Q: Are “enliven,” “liven,” and “brighten up” equally acceptable? Is one most popular? “Brighten up” appears just a little colloquial for written communication.

A: The verbs “enliven” and “liven” and the phrasal verb “brighten up” are all acceptable English and have been for a whole bunch of years. The 2 verbs confirmed up within the early 1600s and the phrasal verb within the early 1800s.

All 10 customary dictionaries that we recurrently seek the advice of embrace the three phrases as customary English. Not one labels “brighten up” as colloquial, casual, informal, or conversational.

Though “brighten up” does strike us as considerably extra relaxed than “enliven,” we wouldn’t hesitate to make use of the phrasal verb in every kind of writing.

A few of the dictionaries say “liven” is “often” or “typically” used with “up.” The truth is, all of the examples for “liven” within the 10 dictionaries embrace “up”—generally instantly after the verb and generally after no matter is livened (as in “liven it up”).

Though “brighten up” is extra widespread now than “liven” by itself, the Oxford English Dictionary, an etymological reference, has modern examples for each usages.

The OED notes one important distinction in using the three phrases: “enliven” is used solely transitively (with an object) whereas “liven” and “brighten up” may also be used intransitively (with out an object).

The primary of the phrases to look in writing was “enliven,” which initially was spelled “inliuen” (“inliven”) and meant “to provide life to; to carry or restore to life,” in accordance with the dictionary.

The earliest Oxford quotation, which we’ve expanded, is from Contemplatio Mortis, et Immortalitatis (“A Contemplation of Demise and Immortality”), 1631, by Henry Montagu, Earl of  Manchester:

“Take into account Demise initially or in his owne nature, and it’s however a departed breath from useless earth inliuened first by breath forged vpon it.”

The OED says “enliven” quickly got here to imply “to provide fuller life to; to animate, inspirit, invigorate bodily or spiritually.” The dictionary’s first quotation for this sense in from a treatise evaluating theological and authorized righteousness:

“The Divinity derives itself into the souls of males, enlivening and reworking them into its personal likeness” (Choose Discourses, 1644–52, by the English thinker and theologian John Smith).

Initially of the 18th century, Oxford says, “enliven” took on the sense of “to make ‘full of life’ or cheerful, cheer, exhilarate.” The earliest instance is from a treatise on theology and science:

“Their eminent Ends and Makes use of in illuminating and enlivening the Planets” (The Knowledge of God Manifested within the Works of the Creation, 1701, by John Ray, an English naturalist, thinker, and theologian).

When “liven” first appeared within the seventeenth century, the OED says, it was used transitively within the sense of “to brighten or cheer, to animate; to carry vitality and curiosity into.”

The dictionary’s earliest quotation is from The New Covenant; or, the Saints Portion, a treatise by the Anglican theologian John Preston, written someday earlier than his dying in 1628:

“Issues liuened by the expression of the speaker, generally take properly, which after, vpon a mature evaluation, seeme eyther superfluous, or flat.”

The verb was first used intransitively within the early 18th century. The primary OED instance, which we’ve expanded, is from a July 24, 1739, letter during which the English poet and panorama gardener William Shenstone describes a dialog together with his housekeeper, Mrs. Arnold:

“ ‘Why, Sir, says she, the hen that I set last-sabbath-day-was-three-weeks has simply hatched, and has introduced all her eggs to good.’ ‘That’s courageous certainly,  says I.’ ‘Ay, that it’s, says she, so be and’t please G—D and the way that they liven, there’ll be a wonderful parcel of ’em.’ ”

When “brighten up” first appeared within the early nineteenth century, the OED says, it was used transitively within the figurative sense of “to provide life to, put life into.”

The earliest instance given is from “The Angel Message,” a poem in Recreations of a Service provider, or the Christian Sketch-Guide (1836), by William A. Brewer:

“Hadst thou a thousand lives to stay … and garden-sweat to tinct, / Or Calvary’s gore to enliven the sketch … ’twere useless certainly, / To try a full of life portraiture of man / Free of the guilt and energy of sin.”

A couple of many years later, the phrasal verb took on the transitive sense of “to brighten, cheer, animate.” The primary OED quotation is from the novel  Bellehood and Bondage (1873), by Ann Sophia Stephens:

“If she isn’t too understanding, and don’t placed on magnificence airs, maybe it’d do. … This lady could brighten up the institution just a little.”

Lastly, the primary Oxford quotation for the intransitive “brighten up” is from the January 1863 concern of The Continental Month-to-month: “Thus refreshed, though soaked to the pores and skin, Francesco livened up.”

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