Convince or persuade?
Understand that some experts say that “persuade” and “convince” are synonyms that go back at least to the sixteenth century. The meanings are so closely knit that often one word serves as well as the other.
After ‘persuade’ we use the structure
to + infinitive:
- I persuaded them to stay for another drink.
- He persuaded her not to take the job.
After ‘convince’ we cannot use a verb infinitive. We say ‘convince someone that‘:
- She convinced the police that she was telling the truth.
- He convinced her that it was the right thing to do.
Both of the above sentence would also be correct without ‘that’:
- She convinced the police she was telling the truth.
- He convinced herit was the right thing to do.
Although Robert finally persuaded his girlfriend to move abroad with him, she was not fully convinced that it was the best thing to do.
In the example, Robert’s girlfriend was persuaded (to move) but was not convinced (that it was the correct decision). So, we can see that when we persuade someone to do something it doesn’t always mean that we have also convinced that person.
The teenager is convinced she can win. The boy was persuaded to run the 10-yard dash.
One more thing is worth mentioning about ‘persuade’ and ‘convince’. If we are absolutely sure about something, we say I’m convinced:
– Are you sure he’s innocent?
– Yes, I’m convinced. NOT
Some related words:
convincing (adjective) It was a convincing argument.
persuasive (adjective) Marta can be very persuasive when she wants.
persuasion (noun) He used his powers of persuasion.
When confronted with issues of word choice, I often find it helpful to consider the associations and connotations a word has in its different forms. A convincing person or argument is one that other people cannot help but agree with, whereas a persuasive person or argument is one that other people find compelling, but which leaves more room (in my mind) for the opportunity to disagree.
If you have been convinced, you have clearly and decisively changed your perspective. If you have been persuaded, then you have chosen to agree with those you previously disagreed with. In the latter case, it may not be so much that you’ve found an argument you agree with so much as you’re indulging someone who has appealed to you, either positively or negatively.
Prefer “convince” when the change of opinion must be definite or to deemphasize the role of whomever did the convincing. Prefer “persuade” to draw attention to either the arguments used or the individuals doing the arguing, to emphasize reluctance on the part of the persuaded, or when you need the word to contain more vowels.