We need to evidence the agreement with these forms.

Is this usage predominantly American?

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    I would call it business-speak. I don't think ordinary Americans use it outside of the office. – Peter Shor Oct 16 '14 at 16:23
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    Ugh. Gross. Maybe it's American, but it's definitely not this American. – Dan Bron Oct 16 '14 at 16:23
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    To this American, it sounds perfectly fine in passive voice, but sounds absolutely God-awful wretched in active voice even though I regularly use its cognates in other languages in the active. – user0721090601 Oct 16 '14 at 16:28
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    @DanBron, Peter Your a bit too modern young and trendy for this one - it's half a milenium old!!! ;) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 17 '14 at 0:12
  • The earliest attestations of that precise phrase to evidence the agreement appear to come from American case law (1920s), although evidence used in this way (evidence the fact|matter|truth|extent|existence|sincerity) was much earlier (and not American). – TRomano Mar 7 '16 at 19:23

While the vast majority of online dictionaries (as found at onelook.com) list evidence as a transitive verb, in virtually all examples, the verb is used passively, as in

Her curiosity is evidenced by the number of books she owns. [American Heritage Dictionary]

The active usage, such as the Questioner offers, does not seem common.


An ngram search of he evidences and he evidenced, as examples of active use, does show some significant usage, but mostly using the term to mean to make evident; show clearly, rather than to give proof of or evidence for [both from Collins]

While many such usages are clinical, both in medicine and psychology, even well known literary works partake

He drove them all, maids, matrons and widows, and toward all he evidenced the same uncompromising contempt. It was obvious that he did not like women, Melanie excepted, any better than he liked negroes and Yankees.

[Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind)


Is “evidence” as a verb an Americanism?

The answer to the Original Poster's question is, no! The first datable attested example from the Oxford English Dictionary is from Atheomastix by Martin Fotherby, Bishop of Salisbury, from 1622:

The testimonie of neither of them..doth so euidence the matter, as the things themselues doe.

The OED lists seven attested examples of to evidence with this meaning spanning the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, six of which were from Britain and only one of which from the United States. This seems pretty decisively to show that evidence, the verb, shouldn't be considered an Americanism.

NB: this particular page entry in the OED has not been fully updated, and was first published in 1894!

Here's the relevant definition from the Oxford English Dictionary [login needed]:

  1. trans. Of things: To serve as evidence for; to attest, prove. Rarely intr. to evidence to

[The citation for the quote and references from the OED are is follows: "evidence, v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2014. Web. 16 October 2014.]


Evidence can be used as a verb according to Merriam Webster

Its usage as a verb is not common on either side of the Atlantic.
In your case, I would use:

"We need to formally document the agreement with these forms"

  • 3
    But when evidence is "correctly" used as a verb, it has the sense of establish by evidence, to make evident, demonstrate, prove. By most people's standards, OP's cited usage is simply "incorrect", since it's obviously being used there with the intended meaning ratify, validate (by signing the relevant forms/documentation). – FumbleFingers Oct 16 '14 at 16:33
  • @FumbleFingers I agree and will update my answer. – Gary's Student Oct 16 '14 at 16:36
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    I've upvoted because of your first sentence and the later edit, but to be honest, I can't really go along with "usage as a verb is not common". According to NGrams, evidence is now more common than show in one of its most common usages. OP's exact usage is uncommon - but imho that's just because it's wrong. – FumbleFingers Oct 16 '14 at 16:44
  • @FumbleFingers I don't think it is wrong. We evidence our acceptance of a change in a document by initialling an alteration. – WS2 Oct 16 '14 at 18:16
  • @WS2: At the margins, maybe. But OP's the agreement already suggests a symbolic/physical thing, before we even get to these forms. I might just about accept it with evidence our agreement/assent/acceptance, but for me it seems clear a different verb should have been used (confirm, approve, validate, etc.). – FumbleFingers Oct 16 '14 at 23:24

I am British, and one who does not hesitate to say if I think our American cousins are taking liberties with the language. But I make liberal use of evidence as a verb, both in the active and passive voices.

David Cameron's sensitivity to the issue of his late disabled son, was evidenced by the way he responded to Ed Miliband's question in the House of Commons

He evidenced his disapproval with a loud tut-tut.

I see nothing whatever wrong with these sentences. So from what others have said I am tending to the view that it is more idiomatically British than American.

  • American lawyers and judges use "evidence" as a verb, exactly as you have. "Evidence", whether noun or verb, is a term of art in the law. – Theresa Oct 17 '14 at 0:30
  • @Theresa But in American courts witnesses do not 'give evidence' as they do in Britain. They 'testify'. And what they have said is referred to as their 'testimony' not their 'evidence'. This may have its origins in America's puritan history. 'testimony' seems to be a word with religious implications. – WS2 Oct 17 '14 at 9:02
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    In my experience (licensed attorney for 30+ years in the USA), I agree that witnesses do usually "testify". They also "give evidence", especially in documentary form. "Evidence" is used as a verb in briefs and in court opinions. From the SCOTUS Blog: scotusblog.com/2014/10/texas-sees-no-emergency-on-voter-id-law "Besides, the state said, “voter identification laws are popular (as evidenced by their enactment in numerous states).” In addition, it asserted, the Texas legislature approved the requirement “as a means to deter and detect fraud ...." – Theresa Oct 17 '14 at 20:44
  • It appears to be used heavily in the education sector: To evidence something for Ofsted – Ade Sep 19 '15 at 7:58
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    @Ade I have not seen it used in quite that sense - perhaps because I don't see anything of Ofsted's. But evidence can certainly be used as an active verb she evidenced her disapproval of the scheme at every opportunity. – WS2 Sep 19 '15 at 8:09
  1. Evidence is (also) a verb in its own right. See a good dictionary.

1a. In any case, most nouns can be, and are regularly, used as verbs.

  1. The cited sentence is poorly formed, though. Its use of the verb is incorrect.

I was corrected by a colleague when I used the expression "as evidenced by". I was told directly that evidence is a noun and the correct verb to use is "to evince".

Whilst "evince" is a little known word, the definition "indicate or exhibit (quality)" suggests that it is the correct verb to use and that "to evidence" came about through common usage.

  • Hi, Adrian. Welcome to English Langauge and Usage. I included a dictionary link. Please take a look. – user140086 Mar 7 '16 at 18:59

No, not at all. Most Americans will question the validity of 'evidence' used as a verb upon hearing it, as its extremely uncommon in America.

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