Donating and allocating (Verbs that mean ‘give’)

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by Kate Woodford

This is the second part of a two-part blog post focusing on words meaning ‘give’. The first post looked at phrasal verbs with this meaning. Here, we look at single words in this area.

Let’s start with the very common verb provide, meaning ‘to give something that is needed’:

All meals are provided at no extra cost.

You will be provided with the training needed for this role.  

The verb supply is similar, but sometimes refers to a large quantity of something given or a longer period in which it is given: The proposed scheme would supply 100,000 homes with electricity. 

To donate money or goods is to give them to an organization such as a charity or a political party:

The money for the centre was donated by local organizations and members of the public.

‘Donate’ also means ‘to give some of your blood or a part of your body to be used for medical purposes’. (The noun donor, meaning ‘a person who gives’ is used with both of these senses: a large gift from an anonymous donor; a blood / kidney donor)

If you contribute, you are one of a number of people who gives something, especially money or time, for a particular purpose:

Her family contributed $50,000 to the fund.

Meanwhile, if you distribute something, you give it to many people, usually so that each gets a fair amount:

The donated food is then distributed to food charities in the area.

If a thing or a part of something is allocated, it is officially given to someone for a particular purpose. Another verb with the same meaning is allot:

We haven’t yet decided how to allocate the resources.

Roles can then be allocated to team members.

The board allotted $500 to the recreation center.

If someone is awarded something valuable, such as a prize or a contract, they are given it after an official decision:

She was 26 when she was awarded the prize.

The company was awarded a contract worth $20 by the federal government.

If someone is presented with something, they are given it officially, at a special ceremony:

Who will present the prizes?

There was an award ceremony where the winners were presented with medals.

Another ‘give’ verb means ‘to give too much’. If someone is inundated with something, they are given more of it than they can manage:

We’ve been inundated with offers of help.

Let’s end with a nice ‘giving’ idiom. In UK English, to supply something to a place or person that already has a lot of that thing is to carry/take coals to Newcastle. (In the past, Newcastle upon Tyne was a very big producer of coal in the UK.)

I’d bring cake or biscuits with me, but it would be like taking coals to Newcastle!

Does your language have a phrase that means the same as this?

22 thoughts on “Donating and allocating (Verbs that mean ‘give’)

  1. Ira

    In Russian we say “go to Tula with your own samovar” because Tula was a well known centre of samovar production (a metal container traditionally used to boil water for tea)

    1. That’s a really cool way to describe it, as it doesn’t enguilt the receiver. I’m thinking of dilemma-situations where your nice present (or the invested money) is needed way more by the one gifting than the gifted.

      A more general expression for “to do sth that really didn’t need doing” is Latin “ligna in silvam ferre” (verbatim: to bring wood into the forrest) is translated into German as “Eulen nach Athen tragen” (“to bring owls [city godess Athena’s companion] to Athens” came probably to German via Latin back to Aristophanes “Τὶς γλαῦκ᾿ Ἀθήναζε [ἐκόμισε];”) 😀

      Languages <3

  2. Alejandro M

    In Colombian/Paisa Spanish is “Es como llevar leña para el monte”. To carry wood to the forest, the forest already has lots of wood. Nice post, thank you!!

  3. Muhammed Ourang

    Hi Kate,

    That is a great post. Cheers,

    In Persian (or Farsi, the language spoken in Iran), we say ” to take the cumin seeds to Kerman”. The city of Kerman is famous for resources and fields which produce cumin seeds,


  4. muhammedahel

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your great post this week. In Persian (or Farsi, the language spoken in Iran), we say: “to take cumin seeds to Kerman”. The city of Kerman is famous in producing cumin seeds,


  5. Traduttrice

    In German it’s “carry owls to Athens”. Owls were the symbol of goddess Athena, hence there were already numerous owls in Athens.

  6. Zeng Di

    Hi Kate,

    I have been following your articles and they are all very intereting!

    In Chinese, we have a similar idiom (but not to point to ‘giving’), “ban men nong fu”, which means ‘to show off carpentry skills in front of the best carpenter/architect’. Here ‘ban’ refers to Lu Ban, an ancient Chinese architect.

    Hope this information is useful to you and other readers.

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