by Liz Walter
The English philosopher George Henry Lewes said ‘We must not assume that which is incapable of proof.’ Certainly, proof and evidence have an important role in many areas of our lives, so it is not surprising that there is a lot of vocabulary related to these concepts.
Police have uncovered new evidence that links Foster to the crime.
We are trying to establish the truth about their relationship.
The most obvious area where proof is necessary is in crime and policing. Witnesses (people who saw what happened) can help police solve a crime. We also use the word witness for someone who says what they know about something in a court. The collocation call a witness means to ask them to give their evidence. We sometimes refer to the formal statement of a witness as their testimony:
Police are appealing for witnesses to the crash.
She was called as a witness when the case came to court.
It was Walker’s testimony that convicted him.
He had a cast-iron alibi because he was in a TV recording studio at the time.
Fingerprints taken from the room appear to corroborate their account.
The fact that her passport is missing bears out our theory that she has gone abroad.
They used CCTV images to refute the claim that the door was left open.
Photos of Watts with known criminals were used to discredit her evidence.
He later retracted his statement, saying he had been mistaken.
There are also lots of useful adjectives to describe the amount and reliability of evidence. Very strong evidence is robust, conclusive, definitive, irrefutable or incontrovertible. Empirical evidence is based on real observations or experiments, while circumstantial evidence makes you think something is true but doesn’t prove it and anecdotal evidence is based on someone’s experience rather than on facts that can be checked:
We need robust evidence about pollution levels.
The police can’t convict him on circumstantial evidence.
There’s lots of anecdotal evidence about the lack of school places.
I hope these words are useful. One thing that is beyond doubt (definitely true) is that your English will improve if you learn them!