“Claiming To Be” and “Stating That”
Recently I’ve noticed the phrase “stating to be” in contexts that call for either “claiming to be” or “stating that.” For example:
This Buffalo, NY church has a plaque stating to be a nuclear weapon free zone.
Should you be approached by any persons stating to be appointed agency/representative of Qatar Airways, they should be considered as fraudulent.
Be suspicious of emails stating to be from a financial institution, government agency, or anyone requesting account information, account verification, or banking access credentials.
The meaning of to state in these contexts is “to declare in words; to represent a matter.”
Used with this meaning, the participle stating usually introduces a noun clause, not an infinitive, as in this example.
The scam is usually introduced by a letter stating that the writer has access to huge sums of government money ranging from $25 million to $80 million.
The example about the plaque can be rewritten this way:
This Buffalo, NY church has a plaque stating that the church is a nuclear- weapon-free zone.
The verb claim, on the other hand, is often followed by an infinitive, as in these examples:
The punishment for an individual falsely claiming to be a broker or salesperson is a fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment up to six months, or both.
A street firm employee claiming to know about the trades volunteered information to the SEC New. York office.
Before the pilot program the District paid ditchriders overtime, although claiming to believe that their work qualified for the irrigation exemption.
The verb claim is used with different meanings, but in the context of an assertion about credentials, knowledge, or belief, it conveys a connotation of dubiousness.
The other two examples given at the beginning of this post can be improved by changing stating to claiming:
Should you be approached by any persons claiming to be appointed agency/representative of Qatar Airways, they should be considered as fraudulent.
Be suspicious of emails claiming to be from a financial institution, government agency, or anyone requesting account information, account verification, or banking access credentials.
At present, the odd construction “stating to be” brings up only 332,000 search results compared to 14,200,000 for “claiming to be” and 40,200,000 for “stating that.” However, a search limited to specific years indicates that “stating to be” has been rising in frequency on the Web since 1990.
Bottom line: Generally speaking, claim and state are synonyms, but synonyms are not always interchangeable. Connotation matters, as does syntax. In the context of fraud, the phrase “claiming to be” is the better choice.
When a Synonym Isn’t
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3 Responses to ““Claiming To Be” and “Stating That””
Dale A. Wood
“Claiming to be” is more emphatic than “Stating that”.
“Claiming to be” implies full intent and knowledge, including the intent to deceive. Gordon Gecko claimed this to be true: “Greed is Good” in the film WALL STREET. We are lead to believe that he really meant it, and it was a statement from his heart. Else, he said it to deceive people, intentionally.
“Stating that” is a more general and less emphatic statement. “Stating that” even includes unintentional misstatements. John Q. Public might state that “I am the great-great- … -great-grandson of Marco Polo”, and he might think so, but he could very well be mistaken.
John Bull might state that he saw Sam Jones burglarizing a store one night, and he might think that, but Mr. Jones didn’t have anything to do with it.
Lawyers are usually careful about the verbs “state” and “claim” because “state” is neutral, but “claim” is emphatic, and it takes evidence to back it up. It also includes deliberate deception.
If the District Attorney claims that Mrs. Smith “knew or should have known about” the insider stock trading that was going on at the Smith Company, then the D.A. needs to have evidence for this.
A person may state anything at all, but to claim something implies a lot more responsibility.
That’s a very good point about these two phrases. Actually, (shame on me) I used to write “stating” without “that”. Now, as I know the difference I’ll be more careful about my writings. it’s sometimes so painful to proofread the paper, when you have put so much efforts into it and have to meet the deadline of the publisher.
I also liked the post about misunderstood and misquoted Shakespearean phrases:) Funny, but people do have a tendency to make up the things.
Samantha (freelance writer, blogger and linguistics addict)
Dale A. Wood
This is a very good article about the difference in meaning and usage of “claiming” and “stating”, especially given the context.
Also note that so many careless writers and speakers omit the “to be” in “claiming to be” and the “that” in “stating that”.
This leads to ridiculous sentences containing phrases like “claiming Alaska” — when knowledgeable people know that nobody can claim Alaska, because Alaska already belongs to the United States and to the native people who lived there even before 1867.