Prodding and urging (Getting people to do what you want!)

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by Kate Woodford

A recent post looked at words and phrases meaning ‘persuade’ but of course, there are other ways to make people do what we want, (and not all of them especially nice!) Let’s take a look, then, at these words and phrases.

You might try to get someone to do something or go somewhere by offering them something attractive or exciting in return. For this we have the verbs entice and lure. Adverts like these may entice the customer into buying things they don’t really want. / They try to lure people into the shop with the offer of free cake.

Similarly, if you dangle something good before or in front of someone, you offer it to them in order to persuade them to do something: I’ve dangled all kinds of offers in front of him to get him to work harder at school.

Motivate is a useful verb in this area. If a person, especially a teacher, motivates someone to work, they make them determined to do it, for example by making them interested, or by making them feel that the work is useful: Teaching is all about motivating people to learn. If you incentivize someone to work hard, you offer a reward for that hard work: Staff are incentivized by bonuses.

Meanwhile, you may prod someone who is slow to take action or seems unwilling by reminding them to do something: Jamie gets things done eventually, but only after I’ve prodded him several times.

Moving to a specific context, someone watching a sporting event may urge a competitor on, meaning that they shout or cheer to try to help them succeed: The crowd urged her on towards the finishing line.

The words bribe and blackmail are more serious. If someone bribes a person, they try to make them do something in exchange for money, presents, etc. in a way that is dishonest. There were accusations that he had bribed voters for their support. (Bribe can also be used in a less serious way, meaning simply ‘to offer someone something good so that they do what you want’: I had to bribe the children with chocolate to get them to come!) The activity of bribing is bribery. If someone blackmails a person, they force them to do something by threatening to tell other people a harmful secret about them: He claims he was blackmailed into handing over his account password.

Staying with the more negative verbs, someone who eggs another person on encourages them to do something bad: The other kids were egging him on, telling him to take the money. To goad someone into doing something bad is to annoy or upset them until they do that thing: The crowd were shouting insults, goading him into reacting. /  She seemed determined to goad him into a fight. Finally, if someone incites someone to do something bad, they deliberately encourage it: There are claims that he incited the crowd to violence.







22 thoughts on “Prodding and urging (Getting people to do what you want!)

  1. Dear Kate,
    This is really a great platform to improve English Language Skills and I keep my eyes on the blog in order to learn new vocabulary as well as improving some old points that I already knew. earlier I suggested the blog should be available in form of an application for android users free of cost so that we can install it and whenever we turn the wifi on, it should be updated with a new blog. Please consider my suggestion, I would be thankful to you.

  2. Vero González

    Thank you Kate for this post!
    As usual, these articles are perfect to learn a wide range of words.


  3. I request you and your University members to target poor people. Even, I am a poor guy but I have cellphones, etc…
    I need you guys to land in Indian States to give free education for poor people.
    They are not really poor. They just don’t have money but they have talents. Make them super legends…
    Thank you for spending time for my comment…
    Jai Hind…

    1. Wiz lee

      Ok, firstly, request is to order people, not ask them, and you are not president of the galaxy or something. Secondly, those issues happen in almost every country, and I cannot see why only your people can receive free education. Thirdly, those people(not Cambridge staff) are not at your service 24/7 for errands. Lastly, Cambridge dictionary blog is not a fundraising network. Please go to other I-don’t-care-what websites for education or funds, not here. I apologize for accidental rudeness if I have to. I am only an 11-year-old kid so my reply here bears little importance. I’m merely sharing my opinion about your comment.

      1. Good. Your questioning sense is good! Now our group motto has been changed. We don’t focus free education. I will message you later.

  4. Maryem Salama

    some verbs I am familiar with them, but the verbs (entice and incentivize) are completely new for me, especially (incentivize) even my laptop does not recognize it!! Thank you, dear, to let me know

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hello Maryem! Your laptop might recognise ‘incentivise’ with the -ise ending? In any case, I’m glad you’re learning new words! Best wishes.

  5. Wali

    When i checked the meaning of the word there many different meanings and examples but i could not find the forms of verbs.can you plzz help where are the forms of verbs given??

  6. Parmeshwar Birajdar

    Dear Kate

    It is a rather interesting way of learning words pertaining to a particular theme.

    I sincerely thank the lexicographer in you for unraveling the peculiarities of English language especially to its non-native users. Reading your blog truly motivates me to study English with greater conviction.

    I am referring to the example you have given in the blog to explain the meaning of the idiom, ‘egg another person on’ –

    Would it not have been easier to make the readers understand the negative connotation of the idiom, had you written, ‘The other kids were egging him on, telling him to steal the money.’ instead of, ‘The other kids were egging him on, telling him to take the money.’ – Just a thought, I may be wrong too.


    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Param, you make a really good point – thanks! I thought the verb ‘take’ sounded natural in that sentence, but from a learner’s point of view, ‘steal’ would perhaps have been more helpful. Very best wishes.

      1. Parmeshwar Birajdar

        Thanks for replying Kate!

        Your posts are truly interesting and I have made my mind to read all of them.

  7. Juan Garcia

    Hi Kate, thanks so much for this post. You have really motivate us to keep on Learning English!!.

  8. Briki

    Good exercises to explore diverse meanings of verbs that seem synonyms.The verb dangle for example seems to mean to offer something..but I think it makes people you dangle something believe and then do . (May be ‘miroiter’ in French(mirror)

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