US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used both the phrases in conformity with and in conformance with within the same minute during a swearing-in process in the senate. This can be heard in CNN’s video and I am sure found elsewhere.

Answers to “Conformity” vs. “conformance” In English SE draw some distinction between the usage of the two terms.

Justice Roberts being aware of the historic nature of the event and the importance of words will have chosen them carefully.

Does the choice of the two different phrases in two different context suggest somewhat different meanings and implications?

at 01:35 Senators, I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice, for the purpose of joining with you, for the trial of the president of the United States.

at 02:16 At this time I will administer the oath to all senators in the chamber, in conformance with article 1, section 3, clause 6 of the Constitution and the Senate’s impeachment rules.

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    I don't think you're using "historicity" correctly. I would say "historic nature." See en.wiktionary.org/wiki/historicity. Though Merriam Webster's "recent examples on the web" show that you are not alone in employing this new(?) sense: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/historicity
    – phoog
    Jan 17, 2020 at 13:59
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    I think he's using the forms synonymously, but I am not yet confident enough to post an answer. If I get a chance to watch the video, I might post later.
    – phoog
    Jan 17, 2020 at 14:14
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    Is this really a question about politics? I think it would be more suitable for English.SE, where it is already answered.
    – Philipp
    Jan 17, 2020 at 15:12
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    @Philipp as I explained in the question, Justice Roberts will have chosen these words carefully which leads me to think that there is a real difference between the two cases. If there is no political distinction between the chief justice's conforming with the notice and with the constitution, then that is the answer. However if there is a different and the difference phrases reflect it, then that's the answer. This is why the general answers in the other SE site can't address this. It's about politics because the chief justice is responding to, and presiding over political processes. Jan 17, 2020 at 15:32
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    My guess is that the Chief Justice could refuse to appear and is choosing to conform, whereas he must conform to the swearing requirements to keep the process legal. Jan 17, 2020 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


US Chief Justice Roberts' choices of “in conformity with” and “in conformance with” during the swearing in at the Senate.
Does the choice of the two different phrases in two different context[s] suggest somewhat different meanings and implications?

Yes, but only marginally so.

-ity a suffix used to form abstract nouns expressing state or condition.
abstract noun a noun denoting an idea, quality, or state rather than a concrete object.

-ance a suffix used to form nouns [...] from verbs.

Taking the sentences in turn,

I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice [...].

means the state or condition of my being here conforms to your notice.

[...] I will administer the oath [...], in conformance with [...] the Constitution and the [...] rules.

means my administering the oath conforms to the Constitution and rules; the procedure for doing so being specific or "concrete".

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