What is the difference between "conform with/to" and "comply with" in the meaning of "obey rules". I have consulted several dictionaries, but still can't find clear explanation except for the fact that "comply" is formal. But this explanation doesn't fit because I came across this word in informal context.(It was one of Longman tests)
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Hello, Pocket! Smile

Well, I understand why you find it difficult to figure out if there's a difference between conform and comply. Dictionaries aren't always that helpful, I'm afraid.

If you conform with or to something, you go along with it, you do it the same way, you fit in, you become like the rest. Here are some examples:

  • Traditional Jews, Christians, and Muslims conform with traditions concerning how synagogues, churches, and mosques should be constructed.
  • The method of cooking hamburgers and fried chicken in fast-food franchises conform with the method that the main company headquarters has used since those companies were founded.
  • In parochial schools and in many public schools these days, students must conform to the dress code so that every student wears the very same uniform.
  • Most teenagers feel the need to conform to what their friends or peers do. This is a very normal part of growing up and learning how to socialize.

    If you comply, you submit to some kind of authority, you agree to do something in a certain way that's been dictated. Here are a couple of examples:

  • If drivers didn't comply with traffic rules and regulations, there would be total chaos on the roads and a great many more crashes and fatalities than already happen daily.
  • The judge ordered the accused man to surrender his passport if he wanted to be released on bail, and the man complied.

    I hope my definitions and examples will help, Pocket. Smile
  • Well, perhaps that's your personal interpretation, Jerry. I don't know if it's necessarily a universal nuance of the verb.
    COMPLY may suggest a yielding or giving in to another's wishes or orders or to rules or requirements, perhaps through complaisance or lack of strong opinion <should you think ill of that person for complying ... without waiting to be argued into it -- Jane Austen> <on being invited by the brute to go outside, what could he do but comply -- Arnold Bennett>

    CONFORM implies the achievement of harmony or correspondence by compliance as with a preexisting pattern, form, or principle, sometimes carrying the implication of slavish compliance <to ensure that all work done conforms to the highest standards -- Ivor Bulmer-Thomas> <certain lies are indulged in to conform to etiquette -- D.C.Buchanan> <unwilling to conform to American ways -- Oscar Handlin>

    Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.
    Last edited by Marius Hancu
    Jerry, I don't know why you're so latched onto these two words, but right there in the definition YOU've chosen for comply, it says, "... may suggest a yielding or giving in to another's wishes ..."

    I find it funny that you've focused on yielding or giving in by showing them in bold, whereas to back up what I said above, I prefer to focus on the words may suggest.

    Ugh. Enough already. Wink

    The most important thing is if our members understand more clearly how these two verbs are used differently. Wouldn't you agree?

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