Commonly Confused Words: Adverse/Averse

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Is your client averse to the potentially adverse effects of litigation? Or are they adverse to those effects?

Uses of Adverse:

  • Adverse (adjective): Adverse is an adjective that describes something unfavorable, harmful, or detrimental: “This holding will have adverse effects on future qui tam relators.”
  • Legal Terms of Art:
    • Adverse Possession: Adverse possession is a doctrine that gives a trespasser the right to claim title to a portion of land they have possessed in an “adverse” manner for a specified period.
    • Adverse Parties: This refers to parties that have opposing interests in a lawsuit. Put another way: they are on “opposite sides of the v.”

 Uses of Averse:

  • Averse (adjective): Averse is an adjective that describes a strong feeling of dislike or opposition towards something: “She is averse to litigation as a general matter.”

Rules—Averse or Adverse: Use adverse if you’re describing something DETRIMENTAL (“this news might have adverse effects on our revenues for this quarter”) and averse if you’re describing something the subject wants to AVOID (“she is averse to litigation”).

  • Note: Collocates for adverse include effect, reaction, impact, and possession.

And with those rules in mind, I hope you’re not too averse to some practice problems!

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1. Which of the following sentences uses the underlined phrase correctly?

I. The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff due to the adverse impact of the defendant’s actions on the community.

II. The attorney was averse to taking on the complicated case due to his busy schedule.

III. The court highlighted the averse effects of the company’s pollution on the local wildlife.

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2. True or False. The underlined portion of the following sentence is correct:

Because he had occupied the land for an uninterrupted period of ten years without the knowledge or permission of the landowner, the Court found that his possession had been averse.

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3. Which of the following sentences uses the underlined phrase correctly?

I. The adverse nature of their marriage was clearly presented during the trial.

II. Many corporate lawyers are averse to hastily advising their clients without thoroughly examining all potential legal implications.

III. Even though the defendant successfully impleaded the corporation, they were still not considered adverse parties.

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4. In which one of these sentences is the underlined language incorrect?

I. The CEO took a risk-averse approach to leveraging the Corporation’s funds.

II. The judge, averse to corruption, vowed to fight it in all its forms.

III. The law firm was notably averse to the plaintiff’s request to sue a well-known corporation.

Your score is

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