A question regarding the component "in" within the word "independent".

theplatypus's picture

A poster I have designed focus' on the dichotomy of being dependent on the existing power grid and being independent of the grid using renewable energy. As I explored various solutions I came upon an observation; "in dependence" appears to say that one is dependent upon something. For example, "Adam is in dependence of a wifi connection."

However, I realize the previous statement is structured wrong, in that the words "in dependence" can not be used in such a way(please forgive my elementary understanding of sentence structure... I believe it's being used as a prepositional phrase).

Is the previous statement technically correct? If not, then what does the "in" component of the word represent? Would it not be more appropriate to use "monodependent" or "unidependent"?

John Hudson's picture

While it is an unusual usage, you can say someone is ‘in dependence’, but this suggests that he is in a psychological state of dependancy, not that he is dependant on something like e.g. a wifi connection.

‘in-’ in the word ‘independence’ is a prefix indicating ‘without’. If one has independence, it means one is not dependant.

oldnick's picture

In English, we sometimes say that someone is "in denial"; what we are actually saying is that the person in in (a state of) denial. Adam, similarly, may be in (a state of) dependence on his wireless connection. But, (what is) more important, the sentence as it is now structured fails the most basic requirement for written communication: it muddles, rather than clarifies, your message.

cuttlefish's picture

All right then, what about "flammable" and "inflammable"?

DTY's picture

There are two different Latin prefixes that mean different things but, as it happens, both take the form "in-". One of them indicates negation and is cognate to the Germanic prefix "un-" or the Greek prefix "a-"; examples: infidelis = not faithful, invisibilis = not visible. The other one indicates movement toward and is related to the preposition "in"; examples: inflammare = to set something on fire, influere = to flow into.

John Hudson's picture

All right then, what about "flammable" and "inflammable"?

They both mean the same thing: that something is burnable. American usage is ‘flammable’ and British usage is ‘inflammable’. In this case the prefix ‘in-’ means into or towards.

Yes, the prefix ‘in-’ has two different meanings.

theplatypus's picture

Such a strange language we speak... thanks everyone. Can you recommend a good read on these subjects?

eliason's picture

Strunk and White's lightly contemptuous take on "flammable" is quoted here.

1985's picture

Enjoyed reading all that. Thanks.

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