Make or Take a Decision?

I’ve been seeing more and more people using “take a decision” instead of “make a decision.” I instinctively change “take” to “make” each time, mainly because I’ve heard of decision-making ability, but I’ve never heard of decision-taking ability.

So I opened up my trusty Webster’s dictionary to see what it had to say.

Decision is defined as “a determination arrived at after consideration; a conclusion.”

Q: Would you take a determination, or make a determination?
A: Make.
Q: Would you make a conclusion, or take a conclusion?
A: Make.

Webster defines “take” as “to get into one’s hands or into one’s possession, power or control.” Other definitions include:
•       To bind oneself by – Example: take an oath of office
•       To impose upon oneself – Example: take the trouble to do it right
•       To adopt as one’s own – Example: take a stand on the issue
•       To undertake, make, do or perform – Example: take a walk, take legal action
All of these would fit semantically with “take a decision.” However, of all the hundreds of expressions Webster used in the definition of the word “take,” not one of them was “take a decision.”

“Make,” on the other hand, was defined as “to cause to happen, exist, or occur.” Other
definitions that seemed to fit with the word “decision” include:
•       To frame or formulate in the mind – Example: to make plans
•       To enact or establish – Example: to make laws
Webster did not include “make a decision” in the many expressions listed here, either.

So, I contacted one of the FOJs (Friends of Jeanne), Dr. Errol Wirasinghe, who just so happened to write the book on the subject: “The Art of Making Decisions.”

His take on the subject (pun intended) was:
You “make a decision” and then you “take action” when you implement that decision.
One can “make a decision” and never have any action if one does not implement that decision.

Errol said he spent 11 years in the UK, where they often “take decisions,” though
notalways. (I’m sure that was a double entendre.) He added that in Spanish the expression is “tomar decisiones,” which literally means “to take decisions.”

Therefore, I have decided that we’ll be “making” decisions from now on – preferably good ones!

Profound Quote of the Day:
High office teaches decision making, not substance. It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it. Most high officials leave office with the perceptions and insights with which they entered; they learn how to make decisions but not what decisions to make.
– Henry A. Kissinger, former US Secretary of State


5 Responses to “Make or Take a Decision?”

  1. Neil Winder Says:

    Q: Would you make a conclusion, or take a conclusion?
    A: Make.

    This is wrong, the answer is draw, you don’t make or take a conclusion.

    Given a decision is the choice between options, you do not make an option, you take it.

  2. petrocomputing Says:

    Larry writes:
    When I was in Cairo, my national co-workers always used the phrase “take a decision” instead of “make a decision.” I often wondered whether the word “take” is used in Egyptian/Arabic language when it relates to decision making and they just translate the Egyptian word meaning “take” to English.

  3. Marc Achtelig Says:

    Doesn’t one of the basic rules of technical writing tell us to avoid overblown words? I speak English only as a second language, so bear with me if I’m wrong. But shouldn’t we rather just “decide” and “conclude”?

  4. ascalise Says:

    in my opinion, when we use the expression “to make a decision” we are implying that we are the architects of the process: we put together, with adequate skills, all the elements needed for the final result to be what we expect it to be. “to make a decision” puts the focus on the “decision maker’s” ability, power, and to some extent, free will to choose between a number of alternatives and combinations of the components of the decission (to each decission there is always an alternative decision, or an alternative ensamble of the elements of a decission, even if the decision is to make no decision at all). All decisions made have an impact on the future, so by extension, we are acknowledging our capacity to define the future. Alos, to “make a decission” seems to underlines the rationality and the conciousness of the process.

    When we use the expression “to take a decission” we are, to some extent , acknowledging that what we do is to take something that is out there. We “take” something and therefore we are not “engineering” it, we are not architects, we are just choosing something that is given. I sense some fatalist undertones here. I have the impression that by using “to take a decision” we are putting the focus on the constrains we have in our lives, and acknowledges that we are bounded by fate and destiny.

    I wonder whether the difference in the use of expression in Arab languages, Spanish, and (mostly) american English reflect differences in the social ideals of the future, of free will, of fate, of freedom and destiny?

  5. Juan F Hernandez Says:

    Was Henry Kissinger an English grammar professor at Harvard? No? Them, why the quote? Another thing we do not make or take a conclusion but you get to a conclusion. After a analysis, you arrive to certain point. A point that already exist. Millions of people have been there, and you desired to be there to. It was not created by you. How could you make something that only exist when you think about it. If you were in power, you could make laws. Everyone has to follow them, therefore they exist. If the idea disappears, then, it didn’t exist. But if you take decisions, you could see the consequence only, you won’t see the decision, decision are actions not not objects. “Making ideas” is a bad connotation. You could think about something. “Make a right at the next corner? ” Instead of “turn to the right, or left” The only way one makes a right out of a straight line is if one is constructing, building, or tracing streets on a piece of paper. On the other side, the action of taking exist at the moment. In taking the aspect of choosing is implied. You decided to go that way, you don’t make to go that way. You took, (choose), to go in that direction, no matter make that direction. You could force, by making a law, people to pay the taxes. If the people take the decision to paid. How could they make something that is made already. If they make the decision then It was not made. Making is an action of bringing things to be seen. Of which you can take one, choose one. You make your mind, you don’t “take your mind” In this case is just the connotation for: “think what are you going to do, in which, the choosing is not implied.

    My “humble” opinion.

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