Happy New Year!  According to my quick internet search over 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. Unfortunately, most don’t fulfil them very long! Perhaps this occurs because we don’t really understand what the word resolution means? I’m going to take a deeper look at resolution and its other derivatives in today’s post. For this and most of my language posts, I will be referencing the Merriam Webster dictionaries as these are my favorites. Occasionally, for deeper dives, I might delve into the Oxford English Dictionary a bit.

The dictionary tells us that the first known use of the word resolution was in the 14th century where it meant an act or process reducing something from a complex to a simpler form by solving or determining its elements often used with sound, chemical compounds, language components, and light or energy waves. Clearly, that is a stretch from how we use it today for the “New Year’s resolution.”  Later, reducing something to its simpler form began to be applied to actions and goals, ultimately meaning “something that is resolved” or “settled determination,” which is how it is applied to the New Year’s theme today.

In its noun form, resolutions often collocate with specific verbs, the most common being the verb make. For example, I will make a New Year’s resolution or Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet?

There are other related parts of speech to the noun resolution. Resolute, interestingly, is also a noun as well as an adjective and verb. The adjective form is closest to the meaning usage of the New Year’s resolution, since as an adjective resolute mean “characterized by a decided purpose.” Of course, then, the adverb resolutely, follows this adjective. So, I am resolute in my decision to resolutely make a New Year’s resolution. The verb resolute, however, is intransitive, so one cannot resolute a resolution, given that intransitive verbs do not allow direct objects.

Nonetheless, a similar verb, resolve, is transitive, allowing a direct object. With its definition, though, it would rarely be used with a resolution. To resolve leans more to changing one’s direction or finding an answer than to making a promise about an action.  Actually, the verb resolve collocates with nouns like fate and doubts and even problems. Thus, you will never see resolve a resolution, but you can resolve a problem or resolve a doubt. It is good to note that resolve can also be used with a noun clause as in I resolve that I will fulfill all my New Year’s resolutions.

Resolve is also a noun that can be easily used as a subject or object of a sentence. An example of subjective use could be something like her resolve to get to class on time paid off in her increased grades. As an object, this noun often collocates with negative verbs like threaten, weaken, and damage, but also with the positive action strengthen. Therefore, I must strengthen my resolve to meet my goals and not let this resolve be weakened by a lack of time or energy.

I encourage you in this New Year 2017 to strengthen your resolve for language improvement. Resolve any language dilemmas and be resolute in your efforts to achieve better English. Make a New Year’s resolution to follow my blog to learn more about English words. Finally, resolutely apply yourself to increasing your vocabulary!