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"Mitigate against"

The BBC news this morning perpetrated the increasingly common misuse of "mitigate". In an item on the clarification of the law on assisted suicide we were told that the Director of Public Prosecutions would provide guidance on "what factors might mitigate against someone being prosecuted".

To mitigate is to lessen the severity of something, such as a threat. But you don't "mitigate against" anything. Probably what was meant was "militate against", which would at least be grammatical though perhaps not a good choice of words in this case. I don't know what I'd do if I were a BBC news reader and found myself expected to read out this kind of stuff.


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