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I'm always wondering when I want to write a sentence with provide. What is the correct way to say/write:

  • to provide someone with something
  • to provide someone something
  • to provide something to someone

Or another?

Is there any difference in usage between American and UK English?

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possible duplicate of Usage of the verb "provide" – Peter Shor Dec 10 '11 at 16:39
up vote 2 down vote accepted

All three are actually correct in English usage, ambiguous as that seems. No matter how you word it, the thing you are providing is the actual, functional direct object, while the person or thing you're providing it to is the indirect, even though the words might not make that obvious.

This would be less ambiguous in a language that had a separate dative case (like Latin or, I believe, Russian), where the thing or person you were giving something to would always be suffixed differently than the thing you were providing (which would be in the accusative case), and the word order wouldn't matter because noun cases would tell you which was which.

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As a minor footnote, I am happy to confirm your belief about Russian. In fact, the same is true for most Slavic, a few Germanic, and many other heavily inflected languages. – RegDwigнt Sep 15 '10 at 22:13

I'm always wondering when I want to write a sentence with provide. What is the correct way to say/write

  1. to provide someone with something

  2. to provide someone something

  3. to provide something to someone

I'm dubious about 2. only, 1. and 3. seem OK to me.

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Shinto, any semantic differences? – b.roth Sep 15 '10 at 12:28
I don't think so. – delete Sep 15 '10 at 12:50
example of 2: My dad provided me a car. Perfectly correct (if not the typical way this is expressed, e.g., My dad gave me a car.). – kajaco Sep 15 '10 at 18:47
@shinto: I agree with you. – Dia Sep 16 '10 at 5:15
I think #2 is OK, albeit slightly awkward. "The school provided lunch" is fine (the provided thing is a direct object) as is "The school provided the students with lunch" (the students are a direct object). There is probably nothing wrong with two direct objects, for example, "He gave John money" is clearly fine, so "He provided John lunch" should be OK too. And yet, it's just slightly awkward enough that I'd avoid it. – Joel Spolsky Sep 17 '10 at 3:32

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