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Is there any difference between ”to be aware of” and ”to be concious of”?


AussieInBg profile picture AussieInBgOctober 2020

There is a considerable difference in the meanings of ”to be aware of sth” and ”to be conscious of sth” and at a practical level. Even many native English speakers don’t understand the difference and think that these terms are highly synonymous.

”to be conscious of sth” - you are very actively thinking about sth which might be an idea, concept or fact and thinking actively about things associated with them.

”to be aware of sth”: to have knowledge/information about an idea, concept or fact which is important to know in the given context at that point in time. However, you are not actively thinking further about these. ”to be aware of sth” is often used for knowledge/information which is temporary in nature - you have it in your brain when you need it. However, ”being temporary” is also often not the case! The vital thing about ”being aware of sth” is that you have this knowledge or fact at the point of time under consideration.

”I’m aware of my plane taking off in 2 hours.” - You’re probably sitting at the airport bored and waiting for your flight. It’s unlikely that you are going to remember this information any time into the future (unless the flight was to meet the love of your life for the first time!). Still, important to know - you don’t want to miss your flight after all.

”I’m conscious of the fact that my plane is taking off in 2 hours!” - in this case, you are very actively thinking about this fact! You would probably use this sentence with someone questioning your understanding of the situation of the plane leaving soon when you are desperately trying to think how to get through a crowded check-in, security and passport control in time to catch the flight.

Here’s an example contrasting ”to be aware of sth” and ”to be conscious of sth” for a situation where the knowledge/information is definitely permanent:

”I’m aware of the poverty that exists in these city suburbs.” - you have knowledge that poverty exists in certain city suburbs. However, you do not dwell on or really think about it and how to solve it.

”I’m conscious of the poverty that exists in these city suburbs.” - you know about the poverty that exists and you actively try to think of solutions about how to solve it.

Politicians often make statements like ”I’m aware of blahblahblahblah”. Here, they are often actually telling the truth!!! But they are also taking advantage of the fact that there are many native English speakers who can’t tell the difference between ”aware of” and ”conscious of”. Voters think that the politician is making a statement like you would with ”to be conscious of sth” - and believe that the politician is trying to come up with solutions. The politician on the other hand is ”honestly” communicating that he knows about blahblahblahblah, but hasn’t really thought about how to solve it.

I won’t go into the more esoteric philosophical and psychological meanings of ”to be aware of” or ”to be conscious of”. I’ve written enough already. You're probably conscious of this if you have read all I've written and you're still thinking about it wink.gif

  • Panassum profile picture PanassumOctober 2020
    Thank you very much for this detailed answer. It’s like a small essay, usefull to think actively and to become conscious of the difference. In this way I will keep these two phrases in mind
gfarnab profile picture gfarnabOctober 2020
Practically not, but if you want to delve deeper ”being aware” tends to be used for things which ought to be retained for shorter stints. It’d sound a tad off to say ”you must be conscious of your plane departing in 15 minutes”. This, I posit, is because ”awareness” is most often used in the sense of Aufmerksamkeit, whereas consciousness is used for ”Bewusstsein, Besinnung”.
  • Panassum profile picture PanassumOctober 2020
    Thank you very much for your additional explanation. I learn a lot by different perspectives and wordings on the same issue.
exRanger profile picture exRangerNovember 2020
Both are basically about ”knowing” of something and @ the end of the day are quite similar in meaning. The description below, which starts out stating ”there is a considerable difference in the meanings” ends up with offering examples that illustrate how these are, in fact, very similar in most instances. leave it to an Australian to muck things up, especially the English Language.
  • AussieInBg profile picture AussieInBgNovember 2020
    Sure, both are basically giving the gist about ”knowing” - if your level of language somewhere around A2 or B1. A person with B1 English can certainly do a lot of things with their level of language such as express most requests, deal with the main points of communication in common situations that arise at work or socially, travel freely in an English speaking country, understand the bulk of what is happening in most Hollywood movies and even get most of the jokes in American sitcoms.

    Now, if you are getting into B2 and beyond, you should be expressing yourself in much more abstract terms and at a greater depth of meaning than B1. The original topic poster has definitely been demonstrating language skills reaching beyond a B1 level - and hence his perfectly framed query about the differences between ”being aware of sth” and ”being conscious of sth”.

    Explanations of definitions and differences - with examples - are important for language learners to actually get productive with and retain vocabulary and expressions. I can say that my explanation has worked - the poster later productively used the expression ”to be conscious of sth” in a highly correct and even witty manner. Mission accomplished.

    Many people who teach English are hardly aware of things like two similar words or phrases being in some way merely weakly synonymous let alone conscious of how to express their differences in meaning to students beyond a B1 level. This often, unfortunately, applies to even native speakers of English. It generally comes down to laziness, sloppiness or general ineptitude. An inability to provide a genuine well thought out explanation usually gets explained away with bluffing phrases like ”oh, they mean the same thing” or a short two or three word definition which barely even gives the gist of the meaning of the words or expressions.

    Yes, there is a substantial difference between ”to be aware of sth” and ”to be conscious of sth”, isn’t there...

    Anyway, statements such as ”illustrate how these are, in fact, very similar in most instances.” are merely ranting blahblahblah when there is a lack of demonstrable evidence to support them. Hint: to actually substantiate your statement, you are supposed to take explicit examples and demonstrate in a logical manner why they have essentially the same meaning - if you can of course.

    As for your expressed bitter attitude towards Australians... whatever.