Part of speech:
(Like “sleep,” “skydive,” and “succeed,” all intransitive verbs show complete action on their own and do not do action to an object. You sleep, you skydive, you succeed, and that’s it. You don’t “sleep a bed,” “skydive a plane,” or “succeed a plan”.
Likewise, someone abstains, or someone abstains from doing something.)
When you abstain, or when you abstain from doing something, it means you choose to avoid doing it, even though it would probably bring you pleasure, and even though you have to use self-control.
To abstain can also mean, more specifically, to decide not to place a vote.
And to be abstemious is to NOT be self-indulgent.
abstained, abstaining, abstainer, abstemious/abstinent, abstention/abstinence
How to use it:
In general, talk about abstaining from something that's bad for you but is considered pleasurable. You might abstain from smoking, abstain from using drugs, abstain from eating fast food, abstain from watching too much television, abstain from taking revenge, abstain from spending all of your money on video games, and so on.
Do you have to say "abstain from __ing"? Nope. You can abstain from cigarettes, abstain from drugs, abstain from fast food, and so on. It's fine to swap the "-ing" verb for a noun, but it seems less common to me.
In fact, you don't have to say "from" at all. If your meaning is clear, you can just abstain: "Does Rorie smoke?" "Nope, she abstains, for her health." "The motion passed with fifty votes in favor, three against, and one person abstaining." "We're proud of him for abstaining when all of his fraternity brothers were drinking regularly."
A note on word roots:
Take a look at "abs," meaning "away from," and "tain," meaning "hold," and you'll notice that abstaining is all about holding yourself away from something, or perhaps holding something away from you. That should explain why we use the word "from" along with "abstain."
Putting on lip gloss fifty times a day may be a strange habit, but it's cheap enough and makes me happy, so I don't see any reason to abstain from it.
On occasion I receive some truly rude and mean-spirited emails in response to issues of Make Your Point. I try to abstain from responding right away so that I don't react emotionally.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "abstain” means when you can explain it without saying “hold yourself away from" or “use self-control to avoid doing something."
Think of a bad habit you have gotten rid of, then fill in the blanks: "Thankfully, I've abstained from (doing something) (for a certain length of time/ever since some event)."
Example 1: "Thankfully, I've abstained from eating greasy Burger King breakfasts for about a year now."
Example 2: "Thankfully, I've abstained from buying expensive clothes that I don't need ever since I moved to an island with a solitary shopping mall."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
Our game for May is: “What Do These Words Have in Common?”
The three words given will have something specific in common. (More than one right answer might be possible, but I've only got one particular answer in mind for each set of words.) I've arranged the questions from easiest to hardest, so today’s should be very, very difficult.
What do these words have in common?: bras, princes, saltines
Answer: All become a totally different word if you add another “s” to the end: bras becomes brass, princes becomes princess, and saltines becomes saltiness.
Try this one today: unlockable, unzippable, unionized
A Point Well Made:
Allen Chapman: “Yesterday seemed like a variegated dream, and To-Day full of expectation, novelty and promise.”
1. The opposite of ABSTAIN is
2. By definition, a vegetarian abstains entirely _____
A. of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains.
B. toward beef, poultry, etc.
C. from meat.
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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