While browsing my bilingual dictionary, Ed. 1985, I stumbled upon the verb "to charge" in a meaning defined as an Americanism [3(b) U.S.: to charge that... alléguer que...(to assert that)] without any further clarification.

And so, I would like to know if "to charge" is currently used in the sense "to claim/assert" in modern day AmE, and also if it's appropriate in all but the least formal prose.

Consider the following sourced examples:

Sarah Palin charged that Sen. Obama's tax plan is "so phony that it's already starting to unravel"... source

Critics charge that Mr. Obama misjudged Putin. source

Sen. Al Franken charged that "Republicans want to go back to the dark side of the Bush administration". source

When alarmists charged that the polar bear was being hunted to extinction... source

Glenn Beck, today, charged that Fox News is the home base for a horde of liberals. source

A registered nurse charged that there would be "legal genocide" if healthcare reform passes. source

Another doctor charged that such healthcare program are a bargain only for people with two or three young children... source

One critic in the New Yorker pointed out punctuation errors in her own work; another critic -- this time a teacher -- charged that... source

The humanities professor charged that Cattell had a lifetime commitment to fascist and eugenics causes and should not be given the award. source

Arthur Bester, a former teacher, charged that the diminished emphasis on fundamental intellectual discipline was anti democratic... source

Ngram source


  • 4
    Yes, it means allege or more generally claim/assert, but only with illegal acts. One can allege that someone is a nice guy, but one can't charge a person with it. Charges were brought against X means that a formal allegation of guilt has been posted with a court claiming that X is guilty of a crime. This is not conviction, and it's not even prosecution; but it is required for any of these to occur. Mar 25, 2014 at 23:56
  • And why is this an Americanism? Google Ngrams. Mar 25, 2014 at 23:56
  • @PeterShor The OP is not about "to charge someone with something" as in "He was charged with murder". This sense indeed is shared in both BrE and AmE. But it's about "to charge that... [=to claim/assert] as in "She charged that her husband was violent...".
    – Elian
    Mar 26, 2014 at 0:02
  • Your first example, "The National Labor Relations Board …", is certainly the legal sense. Your second example has the police involved, so it's a borderline case of the legal sense. The third isn't. Mar 26, 2014 at 0:12
  • 1
    Actually, looking at the source, the third is indeed a legal sense, because it was part of a divorce case. Mar 26, 2014 at 0:20

1 Answer 1


The general sense of charging something is to bring a strong accusation or assertion (particularly of wrong-doing). Clearly, the most common place for an assertion of this type would be in a legal proceeding.

Charge that is used in the legal sense in your first two examples. It means that legal allegations have been brought against an entity or person (officially or unofficially). This context is extremely common in journalism.

The third is not readily apparent that it is a legal charge except by reading in the source that it is in regard to a divorce proceeding. In that sense, yes, it has currency. But, in common conversation, I would say it holds little currency.

More commonly in conversation: Jane would assert that her husband had more interest in politics.

The other way you will see this terminology used is in a strongly worded assertion. Several of your other examples employ this context. They are accusations of wrong-doing, or even perceived wrong-doing (see the Glenn Beck example - if you are not familiar with him, it's part of his "charm"). They are almost legal claims in their severity. One does not charge that you ate the last cupcake (except in jest, perhaps). One might charge that you made a inappropriate advance on his wife.

Again, the most common place to see this terminology is in journalism. It doesn't come up much in everyday conversation, except perhaps in discussion of current affairs in the news. I would not go so far as to describe it at journalese, however. It has plenty of currency in the legal world, too.

  • You might want to consider checking back on my new sourced examples, David
    – Elian
    Mar 26, 2014 at 1:33
  • 2
    I'd say it's common in journalism, rare in conversation. Mar 26, 2014 at 2:19
  • @BraddSzonye Would you say it's journalese?
    – Elian
    Mar 26, 2014 at 2:47
  • @NourishedGourmet I have revised to help address that.
    – David M
    Mar 26, 2014 at 3:11

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