Coaxing, cajoling and roping in (Ways of saying ‘persuade’)

Philip Lee Harvey / Cultura / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

This week we’re looking at the many near-synonyms in English for the verb persuade.

Let’s start with the verb convince, which is sometimes used to mean ‘to persuade someone to do something’: hope this will convince you to change your mind.

A number of verbs mean specifically ‘to persuade someone to do an activity’, for example the phrasal verbs talk into and (informal) rope in: Finn is refusing to go camping but I think I can talk him into it. / We needed two more people to make up the team so we roped in a couple of spectators.

Other words suggest that you persuade someone to do something by saying nice things to them, for example the verbs sweet-talk, cajole and in British English, the phrasal verb get round: Perhaps you could sweet-talk Patrick into helping out? / I managed to cajole her into giving us a lift. / My mum doesn’t want me to have a party but I’m hoping I can get round her.  A similar verb – coax – emphasizes that you persuade someone to do something by being kind and patient: A mother was coaxing her reluctant child into the water.

The phrasal verb work on emphasizes the effort that you make while trying to persuade someone to do something: Sam hasn’t agreed to pay for it yet but I’m working on him.

Another ‘persuade’ verb – wheedle – suggests that you use charm or praise to persuade someone to do something, sometimes in a way that is not sincere: He wasn’t going to tell me what happened but I manage to wheedle it out of him.

Other ‘persuade’ verbs suggest that you try forcefully to persuade someone to do something, for example, the formal word exhort: The governor exhorted the prisoners not to riot. The verbs pressurize and pressure go further, suggesting that you strongly persuade someone to do something they do not want to do: He was pressurized into signing the agreement.

Finally, two useful idioms exist in this area. If you twist someone’s arm, you persuade them to do something they do not want to do: I didn’t really want to go but Rebecca twisted my arm. Meanwhile, if you can twist or wrap someone around your little finger, you can persuade them to do anything you want, usually because they love you: She could wrap her father around her little finger.




20 thoughts on “Coaxing, cajoling and roping in (Ways of saying ‘persuade’)

  1. Girdhari Lal Sharma

    Thanks a lot for such a useful piece of information. What about the following phrasal verbs which also mean ‘ to persuade ‘ ?
    Bring somebody around
    Bring somebody round to

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi! Yes, a useful addition – thanks! To ‘bring someone around/round’ means ‘to persuade someone to have the same opinion as you’. Best wishes.

  2. Mujahed Jadallah

    Thanks, Kate. You’ve really done a specially great job.

    In this area, I called to mind two phrasal verbs, one formal and the other informal.
    “Prevail on/upon” is formal and it means ‘to persuade someone to do something they do not want to do.’ For example,
    ‘I was eventually prevailed upon to sign the contract.’

    The other verb is ‘sucker someone into something/doing something’. This means ‘to persuade someone to do something by deceiving them’. ‘We were suckered into doing the whole work for free.’

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hello! Thank you for your kind words. Yes, both are good phrases, the second more common in US English, I think. Best wishes to you.

  3. F Hossain

    Dear Kate,
    “I’m hoping I can get round her.” Is “get round” a non-separable phrasal verb? If not, I think, it should be “I’m hoping I can get her round.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi there! No, we wouldn’t ever say ‘get her round’. You need to say ‘get round her’. Best wishes!

  4. Lower secondary student

    I think, Kate, can you make one post on tips for ‘lower secondary checkpoint’?

    But this is a useful lot of information

  5. Lynn

    Thank you for your informative posting.
    I’m very happy to learn new words.
    I’m wondering if native speakers often use words like “coax” or “wheedle” which are completely new to me.
    If it also gives information on frequency of using as well, it ‘d be much better to non-native speakers. I’m learning English.:)

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Lynn! We generally only include words in our posts that are used in contemporary English, Obviously some are used more than others. A word such as ‘wheedle’, for example, is far less common than ‘persuade’ but you can be confident that we don’t present words that are extremely rare or obsolete. Best wishes to you.

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