He often quarrels with his wife.
He often fights (in words) with his wife.
He often argues with his wife.
Do all the three words 'quarrel', 'fight' and 'argue' fit in the sentences above? Could you tell me what their subtle difference is here if any?
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Comments  (Page 2) 
Unfortunately, anon, English is a language that is 90% rules and 10% variables. This 10% is what keeps learners confused. It will take a lot of reading, listening and observing before one can get a hang of how the natives use a specific word in the context.
GG is right, there may be examples in which the word “fight” is not physical in nature at all. i.e. “fighting a disease”.
There are probably a few other words that may have relatively the similar meaning but reflect a different tone and varying degree of meanings.
A dispute / a debate/ disagreement/ argument / quarrel/ squabble/ spat are al in this category.
I wish I could be more helpful!
Hi Goodman and GG,
I'm very grateful to you both for all your help.
GG, I have some further questions as follows:
Is it because 'quarrel' is British English, it is not common in the U.S.?
Are 'quarrel' and 'fight' interchangeable when 'fight' means verbal disagreement?
Thanks a lot
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I don't feel very comfortable talking about quarrel, because I know only the American perspective. I won't say it's never used, but it's not nearly as common. Did we add "a row" to this list? I know that phrase only from old English novels - I don't know if it's used there anymore either.

Hi GG,

The term 'quarrel between the states' used to be used by you folks as a euphemism for the Civil War.

Perhaps it still is, in places.


Many of my relatives refer to it as the war of northern aggression. Can't say I ever heard of it referred to as a quarrel before.

Del, any comment?
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Hi GG,

Wikipedia offers all this info, and more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naming_the_American_Civil_War

The term War Between the States was rarely used during the war but became common afterwards in the South.

  • In 1862, the United States Supreme Court used the terms "the present civil war between the United States and the so called Confederate States," as well as the "civil war such as that now waged between the Northern and Southern States."[7]
  • The Confederate government avoided the term "civil war" and referred in official documents to the "War between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America." There are a handful of known references during the war to "the war between the states."[8]
  • European diplomacy produced a similar formula for avoiding the phrase "civil war." Queen Victoria's proclamation of British neutrality referred to "hostilities ... between the Government of the United States of America and certain States styling themselves the Confederate States of America".
  • After the war, the memoirs of former Confederate officials and veterans (Joseph E. Johnston, Raphael Semmes, and especially Alexander Stephens) commonly used the term "War Between the States". In 1898, the United Confederate Veterans formally endorsed the name.
  • In the early twentieth century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy led a campaign to promote the term "War Between the States" in the media and in public schools.
  • Efforts to convince the United States Congress to adopt the term, beginning in 1913, were unsuccessful. Congress has never adopted an official name for the war.
  • The name "War Between the States" is inscribed on the Marine Corps memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • References to the "War Between the States" turn up in federal and state court documents from time to time.[9]
  • The names "Civil War" and "War Between the States" have been used jointly in some formal contexts. For example, the war's centenary in the 1960s created the "Georgia Civil War Centennial Commission Commemorating the War Between the States".
  • In 1994, the U.S. Postal Service issued commemorative stamps entitled "The Civil War / The War Between the States".
  • The official war records of the United States refer to this war as "The War of the Rebellion".
GG and Clive, thank you very much for your explanation.
Grammar GeekYou can argue in the sense of debating without involving harsh words. You can even have a good natured arguement, but I don't see how you can have a good-natured quarrel or fight.

I have tried to find authoritative answers to this same question from "official" sources to no avail. In popular use, I hear all these words used interchangeably and almost exclusively in a derogatory sense. For instance, "He's very argumentative!" would usually not be considered a positive statement about the subject's character.

However, I would like to point out that in computer programming, for instance a function Excel, the information I insert between the parentheses is passed to a subroutine, which returns an appropriate and useful response based on the argument I provided. But the process of providing that information is never referred to as "passing a quarrel." On a similar line, I have never heard anyone who is asking for supporting information from another person say, "what's your supporting quarrel?" However, I often hear folks say in that context, "What are your supporting arguments?"

With those generalities in mind, I encourage my students to be careful to use the two words in different contexts, with reference to "quarreling" reserved for situations in which both parties in disagreement are trying to be victorious, while reserving the word "arguing" to refer to an exchange between people who are in disagreement, but who are exchanging information in an attempt to fully understand each other's position, or even to find common ground so that they CAN come to an agreement and settle their differences. In what I would call an argument, two people will often be asking many questions, and usually answering only questions that have been asked of them. But if the conversation consists primarily declaratives and imperatives, with many answers provided to questions that were not asked, then in my world, they're quarreling. Finally, and in agreement with the above quote from the Grammar Geek, I refer to people who are behaving immaturely and emotionally about their disagreements as being engaged in a quarrel. After all, have you ever heard a parent referring to two two toddlers engaged in a property dispute as "arguing?' Indeed, it's almost always "quarreling" or if shouting and hostile gestures or physical contact is involved, it's "fighting," but rarely "arguing."

So I use the word "quarreling" in a derogatory sense, and usually I'm referring to two people who are emotional combatants engaged in a Win/Lose struggle, but use the term "argument" in a positive sense, referring to folks determined to keep the conversation on track toward a Win/Win outcome. So the next time you hear someone call you "argumentative," you can smile and politely reply with, "Well, thank you very much!"

And by the way, after reading this entire thread, I can authoritatively certify that we have been arguing, not quarreling, although the moderators may have a lot more to do with that than the contributors Emotion: wink
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Much agreed