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    One Word, Many Meanings: account

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    English contains many words that are used as different parts of speech, with different meanings. One such word is account, a term that often crops up in business and elsewhere.

    As a noun…
    account may mean

    • a description, whether written or verbal: He gave an account of events that happened at the conference.
    • a reason for one's actions: It was on that account that she decided to sign the contract.
    • a financial tool, such as a checking or savings account in a bank, or a credit-card account.
    • importance, often used in the negative to refer to something of low value: That detail is of no account.

    As a verb…
    account may be transitive (needing an object) or intransitive (not needing an object).

    In the transitive form, the verb account may mean

    • to analyze: After accounting the situation thoroughly, we will act.
    • to consider: You should account yourself lucky to have escaped that situation.

    In the intransitive form, account is usually followed by the preposition for, and may mean

    • to cause: Her careful preparation accounted for much of our success.
    • to provide a reason: He was asked to account for his extra hours.

    In idioms…
    account is often used in the following ways:

    • The phrase on account of suggests a reason for something: On account of that embarrassing interview, I didn't get the job.
    • Another phrase, hold to account, suggests blame or responsibility: She will hold to account anyone who arrives late.

    As you can see, the word account can be applied in several different ways. Use the term carefully to ensure clear business communications.

    —Joyce Lee

    Photo by o5com