Several months ago, I was working with a student and after I made a statement, I said, “Let me qualify that…” at which point I added more information to make the statement true.
Two ways to qualify a statement: Add information, Narrow its focus
Let’s say* that I had said, “Boys tend to be less verbal than girls.” After saying this, I realize that I have overstated the truth. I can qualify my statement, making it more accurate, by adding additional information. For example,
“Boys tend to be less verbal than girls. Let me qualify that, boys are often perceived to be less verbal than girls.”
NOTE: Just as in this example, the first statement is typically repeated and then qualified.
In this context qualify means to modify a statement by restating it and including the specific conditions which make it true.
Additionally, we can qualify a statement by narrowing its focus. As in: “I’d like to qualify my statement. I’m not just pleased. I’m pleased with your ability to persevere and see this thing through.”
The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, gives the following example “I want to qualify what I said earlier—I didn’t mean he couldn’t do the job, only that he would need supervision.” It is being used here as a transitive verb meaning, “to add something to a previous statement to make the meaning less strong or less general.” Or, as I said above, narrowing its focus.
Q. Shouldn’t we use strong statements to communicate more confidence and authority?
A. No. The opposite is true. If you overstate the truth, you lose credibility and it weakens your argument.
There are other ways to qualify a sentence without having to use the phrase “let me qualify that.” For example:
♦ Almost Almost all giraffes can walk within an hour of being born. (The strong statement “All giraffes can walk within an hour of being born,” was qualified).
♦ But Giraffes eat tree leaves. But their diet also includes twigs and fruit. (The strong statement “Giraffes eat tree leaves,” was qualified).
♦ Except All the animals in the zoo slept through the noise, except the koala. (We qualified the strong statement “All the animals in the zoo slept through the noise.” )
♦ For all intents and purposes* The sequel, for all intents and purposes was just a rewrite of the first movie. (The strong statement “The sequel was just a rewrite of the first movie,” was qualified).
♦ In a way* In a way, he reminds me of my brother. (We qualified the strong statement, “He reminds me of my brother.”)
♦ More or less The conference went more or less as planned. (The strong statement, “The conference went as planned,” was qualified).
♦ Practically The performer was practically naked. (We qualified, “The performer was naked,” which would be taken as a fact.)
♦ To some extent To some extent my internship caused me to rethink my career plans. (We qualified the strong statement “My internship caused me to rethink my career plans.”)
♦ Up to a point I enjoy strenuous exercise up to a point. (The strong statement, “I enjoy strenuous exercise,” has been qualified).
Even so, the most common use for qualify is to be entitled, Click To Tweet In other words, qualify is usually used to mean selected or recognized as competent or fit for a special purpose or skill.
Do you qualify?!
Can you use and identify both uses of qualify? Take the quiz below and find out if you qualify as a master English speaker. Let me qualify that, find out if you qualify as master user of the word qualify.
Here are some examples using qualify (from some of my followers). Can you identify which use is 1. qualifying a statement, and which use means 2. to be recognized as able? (Answers below the My Take On It section at the bottom of this article).
Sharon: Your bad behavior qualifies you to be put on Santa’s naughty list! Your good behavior qualifies you to be put on his good list, and on mom’s good list! Lol!*
Two things come to mind as I consider my Christian perspective on this subject. First the Bible tells us, in Matthew 5: 37
“But let your word ‘yes be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.”
I believe this is telling us to tell it like it is,* meaning say what you mean, tell the truth, and speak accurately.
The second thing, but actually the first thing that came to mind as I was writing this article, is the fact that even though we don’t feel qualified (meaning worthy, or competent) to have a relationship with God Almighty, or to represent Him or even serve Him. He has promised to equip us and work in and through us. So, it is God in us that qualifies us for whatever lies ahead. (Now that is a STRONG statement that DOESN’T need to be qualified!) The Bible supports this idea in several places:
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
and Timothy 3:16,17
Each of us is uniquely qualified for a special purpose. When we partner with God, there is no task too great, no detail too small for us to manage.
Answers to the quiz: All the quiz examples used the word qualify in the most common sense (use #2: to be entitled, competent, or chosen by virtue of skill or lottery), except for the second sentence! Obviously, “Let me qualify that….” qualifies as use #1. If you still have questions about the different uses of qualify, click on the hyperlink to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary above.