Can you use the word "neglect" in the following way? The townspeople/inhabitants neglected their town/city. Firstly, thank you so much. Some background about me. I am British born and have been living abroad for many years teaching English as a Second Language at a large high school. One of the English teachers in our team (who speaks American English) thought that the use of the word "neglect" as a verb usually only relates to authorities such as the local council or the government who "neglects" the town. Myself and another teacher felt that the use of the word in the sentence 'The inhabitants neglected their town' was grammatically correct and acceptable. Our colleague did some research and couldn't find any example that talks about inhabitants/residents neglecting their town. She said that it seems that is is always in the hands of authorities to take care of a town and only they can neglect it. However, people can neglect their house, front yard or any other property they own. So we started discussing the issue and I found this site and posted my question this morning. Can you shed any more light on the issue? Thank you so much. Ros

  • 2
    Yes, but perhaps you can tells us why you thought it might not be used that way. This can help us provide you with an informative answer. You might also consider posting future questions like this on English Language Learners
    – Jim
    Dec 24, 2013 at 5:51
  • @Jim Present questions on ell and future questions here. ;)
    – Kris
    Dec 24, 2013 at 5:59
  • Also see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons Dec 24, 2013 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


It seems perfectly fine because, as you can see here, it says 'neglected' means 'to pay little or no attention to' and the way you used it in your sentence, I get the same message.

  • Yes, but you can't use neglect for every instance of "to pay little or no attention to". For example, its use is wrong in *"he had been neglecting the moon, and was quite surprised to see that the yard was brightly lit becasue it was full tonight." (For the record, I think neglect is acceptable in the OP's sentence.) Dec 24, 2013 at 15:06
  • I think 'neglect' assumes some sort of responsibility or duty attached to paying attention."neglect implies giving insufficient attention to something that merits one's attention <habitually neglected his studies>" link
    – Arun
    Dec 24, 2013 at 15:10

Perhaps you missed the comment; as your edit shows it is appropriate, I'll give it as an answer:

Grammatically, it's fine, but neglected X is usually used thus: 'didn't look after X responsibly'. For their children or garden, where there is a duty of care or at least a perceived minimum standard of upkeep, this makes good sense, but one could ask "How does one 'look after' a town responsibly?" It might work if further detail is provided: 'Preferring out-of-town supermarkets, restaurants, and entertainment, the people of Cheme neglected their own town.'

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