This question asks whether 'intention attends the usage' of the word concomitant. The asker was promptly admonished to check a dictionary. That surprised me since I didn't think it was a question that a dictionary could answer. Then I got admonished, and the question got closed.

How does one ask a question about a word's usage that won't automatically get closed by those who think the answer is in a dictionary, or more precisely, that not finding explicit support in a dictionary is sufficient to conclude the proposition is wrong? Some words tend to gravitate to certain types of sentences. You don't find this info in commonly available references. And trying to support or refute such propositions can take a lot of tedious research and careful searching in the right places. I found absolutely zero quality answers contrasting concomitant with it's synonyms when I searched, including earlier threads on ELU. The only hint, and you have to really look for it, is that some definitions for concomitant include one extra word than the corresponding definition for attendant - that is conjoined.

Early on, I added a word 'usage tag' to the question, but that didn't seem to matter.

This appears to me to be an excellent question for this site, what am I missing?

Note: I personally think the answer to the question is no. But I don't think you can get there by looking in dictionaries, unless they provide a huge number of examples like the OED might.

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    The problem I would have with that question is mainly that I don't understand what it means. Other than that, I think some people just want the OP to look through dictionary entries to make sure that the answer is not there, and then quote a few. I'm not sure if that's really that helpful on the whole, although I do prefer it when people do it
    – herisson
    Oct 23, 2017 at 21:20
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    Voted to reopen, but I think the OP needs to edit to clarify/elaborate. Frankly 'concomitant' is one of those rare words of which only seem to be a fancy way of saying 'goes with' and nothing else.
    – Mitch
    Oct 23, 2017 at 21:35
  • I'd be happy to add an edit saying "the dictionaries I've consulted don't address this issue, and neither do searches of 'concomitant vs attendant' ". As best I can figure, the question is being read two different ways. One is that concomitant carries the implication of intention with it, and its presence causes a statement to be regarded in an intentional mood. The second is that it shows up a lot in sentences in which other words contribute to the intentional mood. That is something the OP could clarify. But can we not reasonably answer both cases under this question?
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 23, 2017 at 22:17
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    @Mitch Would you pretty please not vote to reopen questions that need clarification, with sugar on top? Nobody should be attempting to answer a question unless they can understand what is being asked, which is why we have yet another closure reason for that. The question should just be reclosed anyway if it is opened, and if the question is edited to be answerable, your one reopening vote will be wasted.
    – Tonepoet
    Oct 23, 2017 at 22:18
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    @PhilSweet: I think it's not very helpful at all for people other than the original poster to edit in dictionary references. Answering both possible interpretations of an ambiguous question is sometimes possible
    – herisson
    Oct 23, 2017 at 23:32
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    The question is unclear even given the added indicated research. What does the OP mean by intention? Sample situations/context/sentences or something might help. Oct 24, 2017 at 15:53
  • Yes, doing that research would basically be trying to prove a negative, which, as we know, is impossible. Nov 1, 2017 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


The question as posed is fine, and the included question of another student is a quotation so not in question.

To address OP's actual question, the answer is you quickly thumb up a definition on your phone and then note that a typical dictionary doesn't answer such questions and read your dictionaries definition - could tag on a request for a suggestion of a dictionary that would answer the question. The multivolume Oxford English Dictionary should give examples over the centuries but you probably don't have access to that, however the online Oxford does give you 20 example sentences which provide fuel for an argument about the original student question. But OP is right that this question is beyond the expectation of even the most comprehensive dictionary, as it is impossible to address every nuance of meaning.

Moving to a different metalevel, such an answer (pair of answers) from the tutor suggests a. that they don't know and are answering defensively (for both the original question and yours), and b. that they are not being fair/honest about dictionaries or are unfamiliar with dictionaries, and/or c. that they didn't understand the jargon implicit in the original question and so side-stepped it.

Regarding the original student's question, it is posed in jargon and it is a meaningful question and (if c above is false) probably relates to the jargon and subject matter of the class, or some other part of the course the student is doing. The fact that some people have difficulty with (and offer multiple interpretations of) the student's question doesn't affect the ability to answer OP's question about how to respond in such a situation, and what we can expect from dictionaries. In fact, the Oxford sentences seem to answer in the negative - many of the concomitants are not related to human action but to the ontological reality (that is there is not human subject to have intention). However, this does not preclude the observation (which goes beyond the original question) that it is often used in an intentional context or with causal implication (based on empirical study in a corpus - such as the British National Corpus which has concordancing tools to assist in such a study).

This brings us to how I would have answered the original question: That's a difficult question. You may get some assistance from a good dictionary either directly or indirectly via its usage examples (I'd use OED), but it would make an interesting corpus linguistics project to explore the question (I'd use BNC).

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