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Difference between Afflict or Inflict

afflict or inflict

Afflict” and “inflict” are two verbs that often cause confusion due to their similar implications of causing pain or suffering. However, they are used in different contexts and have distinct meanings. Understanding the difference between “afflict” and “inflict” is crucial for using them correctly in sentences. This article explores their definitions, nuances, and proper usage with examples.

DefinitionTo cause pain, suffering, or distress to someoneTo impose something unpleasant or painful on someone or something
Usage ContextOften used in the context of diseases, conditions, or misfortune affecting someoneUsed in the context of deliberately causing pain, punishment, or damage
Part of SpeechVerbVerb
ExampleHe was afflicted with a rare skin condition.The judge inflicted a harsh penalty on the offender.
SynonymsTorment, trouble, burdenImpose, administer, mete out

Difference Between “Afflict” and “Inflict”

Definition of Afflict

Afflict refers to causing pain, suffering, or distress, often in a more passive or unavoidable manner. It is typically used when discussing diseases, emotional suffering, or a condition that adversely affects someone. "Afflict" suggests that the suffering is not directly caused by another person's decision to harm but rather by circumstances, illness, or fate.

Definition of Inflict

Inflict means to impose something unpleasant or harmful onto someone or something. It implies an active decision or action that results in someone else experiencing pain, punishment, or hardship. "Inflict" is often used in contexts where there is an agent deliberately causing the harm or discomfort.

Usage Context

  • Afflict: Commonly used to describe situations where someone is suffering from something, especially illnesses, hardships, or misfortunes, without implying who or what is causing the condition.
  • Inflict: Typically involves an agent (a person, group, or entity) that actively causes harm, punishment, or damage to another person or thing.

Comparing Afflict and Inflict

Understanding the distinction between “afflict” and “inflict” helps clarify the nature of the suffering or harm being described—whether it is a condition experienced or a consequence imposed.

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Afflict in Sentences

  1. Many people in the region are afflicted with malnutrition due to the famine. (Indicates suffering caused by an external condition, not deliberately imposed by someone.)
  2. The community was afflicted by a series of natural disasters. (Describes misfortune experienced by the community.)
  3. He has been afflicted with severe depression for years. (Refers to suffering from an illness.)
  4. A mysterious illness afflicted the crops, causing widespread loss. (Shows the crops suffering from a disease.)

Use of Inflict in Sentences

  1. The regime inflicted severe punishments on dissenters. (Shows deliberate imposition of harm.)
  2. The hurricane inflicted massive damage on the coastal towns. (Describes harm caused by an event, emphasizing the impact.)
  3. She inflicted her opinions on everyone at the meeting. (Uses “inflict” in a figurative sense to describe forcefully imposing something non-physical, like opinions.)
  4. The court inflicted a fine on the company for environmental violations. (Indicates a penalty imposed as a result of a decision.)


The verbs “afflict” and “inflict” are used to describe causing suffering or harm, but in different contexts. “Afflict” is more passive, often associated with illness or misfortune, while “inflict” implies an active imposition of pain or punishment. Understanding these nuances enhances the precision and clarity of communication.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Can “afflict” and “inflict” be used interchangeably?
A: No, due to their distinct contexts of use—affliction often arises from circumstances beyond one’s control, whereas infliction is a deliberate action.

Q: Is it correct to say a person “inflicted with a disease”?
A: No, the correct expression would be a person “afflicted with a disease.” Diseases afflict people; they are not inflicted by them unless deliberately transmitted.

Q: Can inanimate objects be “afflicted”?
A: Yes, inanimate objects can be described as afflicted in contexts where they suffer from some damaging condition, such as buildings afflicted by decay.

Comparing Afflict and Inflict in Historical Context


What is the difference between “afflict” and “inflict”?

“Afflict” refers to causing pain or hardship in a passive sense, often related to illness or misfortune, as in someone being afflicted with a condition. “Inflict” means to actively impose harm, punishment, or suffering, as in someone inflicting pain on another.

Can you explain the Latin origins and historical usage of “afflict” and “inflict”?

Both “afflict” and “inflict” have Latin origins from the verb “flīgere,” which means “to strike.” “Afflict” comes from “afflīgere,” meaning “to cast down,” and was first used in English between 1350-1400. “Inflict” comes from “inflīgere,” meaning “to strike or dash against,” and appeared around 1520-1530.

How do “affliction” and “infliction” compare in their definitions?

“Affliction” refers to a state of suffering or distress that a person or group experiences, often due to a chronic disease or misfortune. “Infliction,” on the other hand, is the action of causing harm or pain, focusing on the agency and action of the person or entity responsible for causing that pain.

How do grammatical structures and prepositions affect the use of “afflict” and “inflict”?

Grammatical structures and prepositions are important in distinguishing between “afflict” and “inflict.” “Afflict” is usually paired with “with” and used in passive constructions, as it refers to something being experienced. “Inflict” typically uses the prepositions “on” or “upon” and is used in active voice, as it denotes an action being done to someone or something.

What is the primary difference between “afflict” or “inflict” when considering the subject and object in a sentence?

The primary difference lies in the nature of the action. When the object of a sentence is suffering or experiencing hardship, “afflict” is used, as it indicates something that occurs to them. Conversely, “inflict” is used when the subject of a sentence actively causes harm or discomfort to the object, indicating a deliberate action.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, writer at, blends creativity with insight, exploring technology, culture, and psychology. With a background in English Literature, she crafts engaging stories inspired by nature and urban life. Outside writing, she enjoys exploring and continuous learning.View Author posts

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