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Synonyms of compel in English:


  • 1 the lords compelled the peasants to hand over their harvest
    oblige, require, put under an obligation, leave someone no option but to;
    informal bulldoze, railroad, steamroller, twist someone's arm, strong-arm, lean on, put the screws on
    archaic constrain
  • 2 they can compel compliance by issuing a directive
    exact, extort, demand, insist on, enforce, force, necessitate
    archaic constrain
  • Choose the right word

    compel, force, coerce, oblige
    All these words refer to making someone do something that they would not otherwise choose to do. They are often used in the passive, underlining the sense that the person feels deprived of power or choice. All but coerce are used with an infinitive (e.g. compelled to do something), as in the examples given.Someone who is compelled to do something is subjected to pressure that they feel unable to resist. Often, this pressure is applied by someone in authority and takes the form of the threat of penalties if the person fails to comply ( companies are compelled to comply with the regulations | the court had powers to compel witnesses to attend). Adverse circumstances may also compel someone to do something ( he was compelled to retire on grounds of ill health), or the pressure may be from one's own conscience ( I feel compelled to write this letter of complaint).Force is a more general term for using superior power to make someone do what one wants them to. The superior power may be that of uncontrollable circumstances ( the firm has been forced to make nineteen more workers redundant) or that of someone physically stronger or better equipped ( the raider forced him to open the safe). People may also force themselves to do something, steeling themselves for something necessary but unpleasant ( Lucy forced herself to sound calm).To coerce someone into doing something typically involves force or threats ( landlords might try to coerce their tenants into voting for them | they claimed that they had been coerced into making their televised confessions). Coercion is nearly always applied by another person, not by circumstances or one's own conscience.Typically, if someone is obliged to do something, they are legally or morally bound to do it rather than being forced or pressurized ( independent schools are not legally obliged to follow the National Curriculum | Stephen felt obliged to sit next to her).
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