American English

Definition of certain adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1that you can rely on to happen or to be true The climbers face certain death if the rescue today is unsuccessful. certain (that)… It is certain that they will agree/They are certain to agree. certain to do something She looks certain to win an Oscar. certain of something/of doing something If you want to be certain of getting a ticket, reserve now. Thesaurussureconfident convinced certain positive clearThese words all describe someone who knows without doubt that something is true or will happen.sure [not before noun] without any doubt that you are right, that something is true, that you will get something, or that something will happen:I'm not sure whether John is coming or not. Are you sure about that? The Orioles are sure to win this weekend. Sure is often used in negative statements and questions, because there is some doubt or anxiety over the matter. If there is no doubt, people often use know:I know (that) I left my bag here (= I have no doubt about it).confident completely sure that something will happen in the way that you want or expect:I'm confident that you'll get the job. The team is confident that they will win. Confident is a stronger and more definite word than sure and is more often used in positive statements, when you feel no anxiety.convinced [not before noun] completely sure that something is true or right, especially because the evidence seems to prove it or someone else has persuaded you to believe it:I'm convinced that she's innocent.certain [not usually before noun] sure that you are right or that something is true:Are you absolutely certain about this?sure or certain?Like sure, certain is often used in negative statements and questions. It is slightly more formal than sure;sure is more frequent, especially in spoken English.positive [not before noun] (somewhat informal) completely sure that something is true:She was positive that he'd been there. “Are you sure?” “Positive.”clear (often used in negative statements and questions) having no doubt or confusion about something:I'm still not clear what the job involves.Patterns sure/confident/convinced/certain/positive/clear about something sure/confident/convinced/certain of something sure/confident/convinced/certain/positive/clear that… not sure/certain/clear >who/what/how>, etc. to feel sure/confident/convinced/certain/positive quite/absolutely/completely/fairly/pretty sure/confident/convinced/certain/positive/clear not altogether sure/confident/convinced/certain/clear
  2. 2firmly believing something; having no doubts certain (that)… She wasn't certain (that) he had seen her. certain of/about something Are you absolutely certain about this? certain who/where, etc… I'm not certain who was there.
  3. 3used to mention a particular thing, person, or group without giving any more details about it or them For certain personal reasons, I will not be able to attend. Certain people might disagree with this. They refused to release their hostages unless certain conditions were met.
  4. 4(formal) used with a person's name to show that the speaker does not know the person It was a certain Dr. Davis who performed the operation.
  5. 5slight; noticeable, but difficult to describe That's true,to a certain extent. I felt there was a certain coldness in her manner.
  6. Thesauruscertainbound sure definite guaranteedThese are all words describing something that will definitely happen or is definitely true.certain that you can rely on to happen or be true:It's certain that they will agree. They are certain to agree.bound [not before noun] certain to happen, or to do or be something. Bound is used only in the phrase bound to do/be, etc.:There are bound to be changes when the new system is introduced. You've done so much work—you're bound to pass the exam.sure certain to happen or be true; that can be trusted or relied on:She's sure to be picked for the team. It's sure to rain. Don't worry—it's a sure thing.definite certain to happen; that is not going to change:Our plans are not definite yet.guaranteed certain to have a particular result:That method is guaranteed to take much longer.Patterns certain/sure of something certain/bound/sure/guaranteed to do something certain/definite that… I couldn't say for certain/sure.Idioms
    for certain
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    without doubt I can't say for certain when we'll arrive.
    make certain (that…)
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    to find out whether something is definitely true I think there's a bus at 8 but you'd better call to make certain.
    make certain of something/of doing something
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    to do something in order to be sure that something else will happen You'll have to leave soon to make certain of getting there on time.
    of a certain age
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    if you talk about a person being of a certain age, you mean that they are no longer young but not yet old The show appeals to an audience of a certain age.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: certain