Averse, Adverse

By Sharon

It is easy to confuse adverse and averse but their meanings are totally different.

Adverse means unfavorable, contrary or hostile, and can never be applied to humans. You often hear it used in the term ‘adverse weather conditions’, a phrase which is best avoided in favor of ‘bad weather’.

Averse means unwilling or disinclined or loath and is always followed by the preposition ‘to’. It applies to a person and is used like this: ‘He was averse to discussing the conference’. Of course, it would be just as easy to say. ‘He didn’t want to discuss the conference’.

Overuse of both averse and adverse is likely to sound pompous. It’s always better to keep it simple.

12 Responses to “Averse, Adverse”

  • Ken

    The point that adverse “can never be applied to humans” is wrong. In a legal setting, the opposite side, most often humans, is referred to as “adverse party” and not “averse party.”

  • Kat

    Come on – using this word will make you sound pompous? Give me a break. Should we all degenerate into using lol, omg, and other brainless test-speak?

  • Joe

    The only thing you are wrong about, Brian, is saying that “averse” is not always used as a verb.

    “Averse” is never used as a verb. It’s always an adjective, even in sentences such as “He is averse to liberal government.”

  • Brian

    I second “joe blow”. The word “averse” doesn’t ALWAYS have to followed by the preposition ‘to’ because it’s not always used as a verb. If it’s used as an adjective, it doesn’t have to be followed by the preposition.

    For instance, “The risk averse underwriter decided against insuring the nuclear power plant.”

    Am I wrong?

  • David

    Your definition insists adverse can never apply to humans yet there is a legal definition for an “adverse witness”, a witness who offers adverse testimony to the calling party during direct examination. I do not know that a witness can be anything but human. Perhaps this is a misnomer – the term “hostile witness” is also used interchangeably with “adverse witness”.

  • Rob


    I think that it is regardless of the monarch’s sex, not gender. 😉

  • Bob

    Ms. Daoda Carlon,
    I’m truly sorry to break it to you but it is *always* the ‘Kings English’; never the “Queens Language” regardless the monarch’s gender.

  • Bill

    Mentally substituting the noun form of averse usually clears up problems, as most people are more familiar with its usage.

    So instead of thinking “He is averse to education”, you would think “He has an aversion to education”.

  • T. Schenck

    I detected some adverse grammatical conditions present in T. Daoda Carlon’s response, however I am averse to pointing it out. (So this is painful for me on a couple of levels.)

  • T. Daoda Carlon

    Good day gentlemen,

    this lesson provide a clear distinction in the Queen’s language, and I really appreciate were you to continued your good work.

    Good luck

  • Sharon Hurley Hall

    In other words, disclined to take risks – nice example, Joe

  • joe blow

    Averse can also follow a behavior to categorize people. For example, someone who invests in only very secure investments would be considered a risk averse.

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