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I've recently heard that the correct usage is "Don't condescend to me", but I've always used "Don't condescend me". Google has mixed quotes. Which is the correct usage?

The dictionary has this entry:

to stoop or deign to do something: He would not condescend to misrepresent the facts.

Now, in this sense, it makes sense to have the "to" at the end. But the definition is slightly off... with the phrase "Don't condescend me", the usage is synonymous with that of patronize. "He would not patronize to misrepresent the facts" does not make sense, so unless there is another definition of condescend that I am not finding, does that mean that "Don't condescend me" is incorrect? I certainly hear it being used a lot, in TV / movies and everyday life.

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closed as general reference by tchrist, Mahnax, Robusto, Mitch, Bravo Dec 9 '12 at 22:35

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What did your dictionary tell you, John? Put that in your question to help us help you. – Matt E. Эллен Dec 9 '12 at 20:26
Both your examples lie outside Standard English, and would be considered “wrong” by most. Here are the operative OED senses: 2. fig. To come or bend down, so far as a particular action is concerned, from one’s position of dignity or pride; to stoop voluntarily and graciously; to deign: a. to do something. §1860 Mrs. Carlyle Lett. III. 19―The dressmakers··won’t condescend to make anything but with their own materials. b. to a course or action. Cf. to stoop to. §1883 Froude Short Stud. IV. iii. 272 ― Origen was too high a man to condescend to wilful misrepresentation. – tchrist Dec 9 '12 at 20:29
I've updated the question. tchrist, does that mean that there is no correct usage for the phrase I'm trying to construct with the word condescend? – John Dec 9 '12 at 20:34
@John The formulation in Standard English is “to be condescending to someone”. You cannot “condescend anyone”; because it just does not work that way in Standard English. Saying it that way sounds like some sort of pidgin or urban slang, to put as nice a spin on it as possible. It would as much mark you as uneducated as would “aksing” [sic] someone to do something for you would. – tchrist Dec 9 '12 at 20:45
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The usage notes in the wiktionary entry for condescend point out that

• This is a catenative verb that takes the to infinitive. See Appendix:English catenative verbs
• In sense “to talk down”, the derived participial adjective condescending (and corresponding adverb condescendingly) are more common than the verb itself.

The appendix linked to in the above quote explains the term catenative verbs at more length:

Catenative verbs are verbs which can be followed directly by another verb — variously in the to-infinitive, bare infinitive or present participle/gerund forms. For example He deserves to win the cup, where deserve is a catenative verb which can be followed directly by another verb, in this case in the to-infinitive form.

Most of these verbs demand that the following verb be in one or the other form only. A few can take both forms, but sometimes there is a difference in meaning.

They are called catenative from their ability to form chains. We promised to agree to try practicing playing tennis more often.

Note, the sense “to talk down”, mentioned in the first quote, refers to sense 2 of condescend:

To treat (someone) as though inferior; to be patronizing (toward someone); to talk down (to someone) [eg]
1861, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, ch. 29:

"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart."

1880, Charlotte M. Yonge, Clever Woman of the Family, ch. 7:

Ermine never let any one be condescending to her, and conducted the conversation with her usual graceful good breeding.

In short, “Don't condescend me” is incorrect; I've never heard anyone say it, and have never seen it written before. I doubt that it is commonly heard anywhere among native speakers.

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If you wanted to tell someone to stop being condescending to you, you would say, "Don't be condescending." or "I don't appreciate your condescension."

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