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In my on-going quest to understand the difference between initially indentical-looking words, I hereby bring you: 使用 vs. 施用! Both seem to mean 'to apply something' and it appears to be acceptable to both 使用化肥 and 施用化肥. Maybe I have hit a genuine synonym this time?! If history is anything to go by, probably not, but it's a fun game, eh? :-) Hashamyim

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    If you found that 施用化肥 example from Pleco, you can see that 施用 also means 'execution (of an action); 施行', so they're interchangeable but not fully interchangeable. – dROOOze Apr 17 '18 at 16:46
  • bkrs 使用 [use] 使人或物为某种目的服务 使用打字机很熟练 make use of; use; employ; apply; wear: 禁止使用 forbid the use of 使用不当 unwise use of 介词的正确使用 the correct use of prepositions 使用火力 employ fire 使用极便 utmost in convenience 留待将来使用 for future use #560 同义: 应用, 利用, 采用, 施用 施用 [use] 使用; 采用 施用一种新的操作法 use; employ; apply: 施用化肥 apply fertilizer 这种杀虫剂用水稀释后直接施用在田里。 This pesticide is diluted with water and applied directly to the fields. #30622 – user6065 Apr 17 '18 at 20:51
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施用 = use; apply; implement (usually to a target)

使用 = use; operate (with or without target)

  • When someone "施用武力" or "施用毒氣", there are always specific targets the action is applied to

Example: 對示威者施用武力; 對村民施用毒氣 use force against demonstrators; use gas on the villagers (you can replace 施用 with 使用 in these two examples)

  • When someone "使用工具" or "使用武器" there may or may not be a specific target the action is apply to.

Example: 祇有小數動物會使用工具/武器 Only a few kinds of animal know how to use tools/weapons ( you cannot replace 使用 with 施用 in this example because there is no specific target the action is apply to)

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