Consider the phrase:
"That shovel belongs to Tim."
which when you reverse the subject becomes: "Tim owns that shovel"

However there is another use of belong, which means membership of.
"Susan belongs to the North Hampton Soccer Club.".
How would I reverse that subject. "The North Hampton Soccer Club owns Susan"? That isn't correct, Susan isn't property.
"The North Hampton Soccer Club includes Susan"? That doesn't convay the same strength of belonging, but it is better.

Consider another example:
"Fred belongs to the Catholic Church"
"The Catholic Church owns Fred", "The Catholic Church includes Fred",

I am ideally looking for a single word verb.

  • 1
    Not answer-worthy perhaps, but how about, includes or encompasses? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 25 '15 at 0:08
  • @Araucaria: The question already have includes as a possible anternitive, and details my issue, That issue is the same for encompasses. – Lyndon White Mar 25 '15 at 1:17
  • If your dog belongs to you, then you are your dog's owner. Maybe he belongs inside when the mailman shows up. And you might not care to belong to any club that would have you as a member. – tchrist Jul 4 '18 at 21:38
  • What group do you "belong" to? The set of prime numbers? – tchrist Jul 4 '18 at 21:39
  • Oh yes, you can belong to a research group in that you are part of that team. – tchrist Jul 4 '18 at 21:41

This is an awesome question. Going to take a stab at an answer, though I can't imagine a totally satisfactory one if you would rather not use "include" or "own." There are also some obvious answers that you can find in a thesaurus, so I'm going to try to offer some alternatives that you might not have considered.

Contains - From latin meaning "to hold altogether," contains might be the most appropriate if you don't want to use include.

Comprehends - Though now commonly used to refer to a cognitive understanding, this word is derived from the latin roots that translate roughly to "grasp together." The idea of being grasped or held together, as in a group, seems a nice blend of owns and includes. But be ready for many people to argue, "hey, that's not what the word means!"

If you chose, you could use the following sample sentences from a Google books search as evidence it was used in this manner. Note the dates, though.

The plan of the school comprehends an architectural or builders' course, a mechanical course, a course in freehand drawing, a course in cabinet work and decorative design, and a course in modelling. - From Annual Report of the Bureau of Industries for the Province of Ontario, 1893

The retail trade of the city comprehends every variety of store... - From Resources and Industries of the City of Lancaster, Lancaster, 1887

Houses or holds - I typically see this used when describing a collective in possession of another collective. E.g., "The city houses some of the nation's top institutions," "The county animal shelter holds some of the most desperate animals."

If you're willing to accept phrases instead of single words, I would also consider something like the following:

The church counts Fred as a member.

The club names Susan on its roster.

The group has claimed (or accepted) the individual as its own.


If you belong to — oh let’s say for example, Dr Frankenstein’s research group, then his research group includes you. You are just one member of that team.

All the members of the team collectively make up that whole team, or formally, they compose it. The inverse relationship is that the whole team is made up of its several members, or more formally, that the team comprises its individual parts.

Except in academic or technical writing, I would probably use make up and either include or is made up of rather than compose and comprise because everybody gets the first pair right but not everyone gets the second pair right.


Belong has two different meanings.

Ownership and membership. The coat belongs to Susan, Susan belongs to the country club. So the club would have Susan as a member, and Susan owns the coat.


You might consider "supports" since generally members are supported in some fashion by the belonging entity.

"Fred belongs to the Catholic Church"

"The Catholic Church supports Fred"

Of course, Fred supports the Church, too, so it's a little fuzzy.

  • Not generic enough, "The Soccer club supports Susan". I'm hoping for a generic solution. – Lyndon White Feb 23 '14 at 8:47
  • Ah. Good point. – emragins Feb 23 '14 at 8:47

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