Is there a significant difference in meaning between "I am convinced" and "I have been convinced," and if so, what is it? For example: "Through reading this book, I am/have been convinced that our...

Is there a significant difference in meaning between "I am convinced" and "I have been convinced," and if so, what is it? For example: "Through reading this book, I am/have been convinced that our imagination is very important for success in life."

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

There is a real difference in meaning, though perhaps not in the example sentence that you have given.

In general, saying “I am convinced” does not emphasize what caused you to become convinced.  It has more of a sense that you have always thought in this way.  By contrast, when you say “I have been convinced,” you are emphasizing the fact that you once thought differently but your mind has now been changed. 

In the sentence that you have given, you imply that the book is what convinced you.  This tends to lessen the difference between the two because you are talking about what caused you to become convinced (the book).  However, saying “I have been convinced” will still put more emphasis on the idea that your mind has been changed.

rmhope's profile pic

rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Yes, there is a difference in meaning, and it is significant. When you say, "I am convinced," you are using a state of being verb (am) plus an adjective. You are describing a state that exists, but you are giving no information as to how long that state has existed or whether it may have recently changed.

To say "I have been convinced," you are using a passive form of the verb "convince." In passive voice, the object of the action becomes the subject of the sentence. This is the opposite of normal sentence structure in English where the subject of the sentence performs the action, which is considered active voice. In general, active voice is considered preferable to passive voice. The sample sentence you give provides an excellent reason why. In active construction, we know what caused the action. But in passive construction, the actor may be missing altogether, leaving the reader to wonder who was responsible for the action. In your sample sentence, it is unclear what convinced you. The phrase "through reading this book" implies that the book convinced you, but we can't be sure. Perhaps the book itself was so dull that the process of reading it caused you to daydream, and that convinced you of how important imagination is. 

The best construction would be a third one that you don't give. It would be this: "This book convinced me that ..." You might also be more specific about what in the book convinced you, such as: "The arguments in this book convinced me" or "The examples in this book convinced me." 

Using the strong, active verbs and concrete, specific nouns will make your writing clear, persuasive, and lively.

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