Today we look at two words that may cause some difficulty for English learners. Both can help us describe what is happening in a place or with a person.
“Situation” and “condition” often appear to have the same meaning. However, looking closer, you will find that they cannot always be used for the same purpose. The confusion grows when one word is used to define the other.
The Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary uses the word “condition” in its definition of “situation” as “all of the facts, conditions, and events that affect someone or something at a particular time and in a particular place.”
Recently, the word “situation” is appearing in news reports about reopening businesses and social events after the coronavirus health crisis. For example,
Maryland’s situation is getting better as it reports the second day with no COVID deaths.
Actors in movies often use the word “situation” to warn of a problem, as Will Smith did playing Agent J in the 2002 movie, Men in Black:
We're the Men in Black. We have a situation, and we need your help.
There are older, much less common uses of the word “situation” that mean the way something is placed or to be employed somewhere.
I found a situation in one of the city’s biggest companies.
Moving on to “condition,” we find that the basic meaning is “the state in which something exists.” This can refer to a person, or in the plural, to their surroundings. We use the preposition “in” when describing a person’s physical state or health.
He is in serious condition at Washington Hospital Center.
But the meaning changes a little when the word is plural.
They found the refugees were living in poor conditions; they had no running water or electricity.
To describe someone’s health or fitness, you can add “in” to say:
She has been training hard, so she is in good condition for the race.
But to describe someone who is not as fit as they should be, you would use the preposition “out,” as in this statement:
The runner is out of condition because of his injury last month.
“Conditions” can also mean “something that you must do or accept in order for something to happen.” In a contract, for example, there are often conditions for continuing the agreement.
Conditions for this contract are that the place of business remains open and the employee is under age 65.
We use the preposition “on” when an action depends on another action, as in this example:
The employee spoke to a reporter on condition of anonymity.
The next time someone asks you to report on your situation, you will know that you can include the word “condition” in your answer. Here’s an example:
A: What is your situation?
B: I’m in an excellent situation under very good conditions.
We will leave you with a song that brings us back to describing our heath. This 1968 song warns of drug use leading to bad health and bad conditions. This is Kenny Rogers and the First Edition:
... eight miles high
I tore my mind on a jagged sky
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in
Yeah, yeah, oh yeah
What condition my condition was in...
And that’s Everyday Grammar!
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
anonymity – n. the quality or state of being unknown to most people; the quality or state of being anonymous
particular –adj. describing the specific thing being talked about and not others
refer to –v. to talk about; to write about; to mention
Use “situation” or “condition” in a sentence. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.