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Adapt vs Adjust vs Accommodate vs Conform vs Reconcile

Adapt, adjust, accommodate, conform and reconcile all agree in denoting to bring into correspondence.

To adapt is to fit or suit to something; it distinctively implies modification to meet new conditions, frequently with the added suggestion of pliability or readiness.

  • he knew how to adapt himself. To one correspondent he is gay . . . . To another he is gravely reflective

To adjust is to bring into as close and exact correspondence or harmony as exists between the parts of a mechanism; in contrast with adapt, it suggests less of flexibility or tact in the agent and more of ingenuity or calculation.

  • he must divine what men would welcome and shun what men might resent. He must delicately mold and adjust the popular will to his own

Accommodate is used in preference to adjust when there exists a somewhat marked variance or discrepancy between the objects brought into often superficial or transitory agreement or harmony.

  • man is no lawgiver to nature, he is an absorber. She it is who stands firm; he it is who must accommodate himself

Accommodate is used in preference to adapt when yielding or compromise is to be suggested.

  • they accommodate their counsels to his inclination

To conform is to bring into harmony or accordance with a pattern, example, or principle.

  • the liberal . . . does not wish to have to conform himself to any program or policy

In current use the reflexive to conform oneself is comparatively rare, its place being taken usually by the intransitive conform (for another intransitive sense see AGREE).

  • this officer, as his duties were prescribed by that act, is to conform precisely to the will of the president. He is the mere organ by whom that will is communicated
    John Marshall)

Partly because of the association of this word with compulsory legislation regarding religious observances, it often implies compliance or at times slavish acceptance.

  • Mark Twain . . . had conformed to a moral regime in which the profoundest of his instincts could not function

To reconcile is to demonstrate to one’s own or another’s satisfaction the fundamental consistency or congruity of things that are or seem to be incompatible.

  • confidence in her own capacity to reconcile conflicting portraits of herself
    Mary Austin)
  • the great men among the ancients understood how to reconcile manual labor with affairs of state

In reflexive use reconcile adds to adapt the implication of resignation or of submission.

  • reconciled himself to a lonely existence