Are you using the term “collide” right?

“Collide”: Origin and usage

The word “collide” is used quite commonly in written and spoken English. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “collide” is an intransitive verb which means, “to come together with solid or direct impact.” The word comes from the Latin term collidere which means “to smash together.” If it is used without a prepositional phrase, “collide” is used to denote the action of two moving objects getting smashed together; it does not mean one moving object crashing with a stagnant one. However, as language evolves, words take on different meanings.

Changing meaning of “collide”

Since the first half of the 17th century, “collide has been in use in its transitive sense (“to strike against”), which is now obsolete. The intransitive sense (“to come together with solid or direct impact”) started being used during the early 18th century.

For the better part of the 20th century, it was common to find collide being used only to denote two moving objects. Which means, one could not collide with a tree, but they could bump against or crash into it. However, this usage has diminished in recent years, mostly because of people using the term to talk about a crash between two objects, in which one is stagnant. However, there are a large percentage of puritans who may shame you for saying you collided against one of the guards at the Vatican! You may argue by saying one can collide against stagnant objects. Neither of you would be wrong.

 “Collide” in use

In the two examples given below, the term “collide” denotes a collision between two moving objects. In both cases, the “objects” colliding are not concrete, but abstract concepts.

Academic: These ideas directly collide with the beliefs of some schools of thought, like Stoicism, where sensual experiences are disfavored compared to the power of order and reason in discovering spiritual truth. (Thommen, 2014)

Non-academic: Two can play at that game: When polls collide (OpenLearn, 2012)

In the two examples given below, the term “collide” is used with the preposition. This is done when the term has been used to denote one moving object crashing into a stagnant one.

Academic: “A light α-clustered nucleus has a large intrinsic deformation. When collided against a heavy nucleus at very high energies, this deformation transforms into the deformation of the fireball in the transverse plane.” (Broniowski & Arriola, 2014)

Non-academic: “Over 35 persons, including regular commuters to Mysuru from Kushalnagar, had a miraculous escape in the wee hours of today when a KSRTC bus they were travelling in collided against a parked truck carrying tree logs.” (Star of Mysore, 2021)

Common mistakes when using “collide”

Avoid using “collided against each other” because it is redundant. The word “collide” naturally implies that there are two objects colliding—whether only one of them is moving or both.

Incorrect: The Mercedes and the Audi collided against each other.

Correct: The Mercedes collided with the Audi.

Want to avoid the common mistakes associated with confusing words like “collide”? Use an AI grammar checker like Trinka. Trinka not only checks for grammar and spelling errors, it also warns you when it finds that you are not using a certain word in the right context.

Now that you know how to use “collide” correctly, just sit back, relax, and listen to this fascinating number by Def Leppard that released in 1995— When Love and Hate Collide.

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