Consider this common sentence structure for discussing a hypothetical situation:

Who would benefit from adding Foo to Bar?

I would like to ask the opposite:

Who would be disadvantaged from adding Foo to Bar?

In my particular case, 'be disadvantaged' needs to be replaced with a single word. Ideally, the word would be as neutral as possible, with as little negative connotation as could be mustered. I'm looking for a word from the same part of speech as is 'benefit'. The antonyms for benefit found on common online sources do not have a suitable drop-in replacement word. The only one that comes close is 'lose' but in this case they are not suffering a loss but rather simply not receiving a utility.

  • 1
    If you can't find a suitable adjective, there's always handy-dandy "not". (Who would not benefit...)
    – Oldbag
    Aug 28, 2015 at 13:45
  • 5
    Suffer - but you might want to change the preposition from from to by in either or both versions. Aug 28, 2015 at 13:54
  • @FumbleFingers: Thank you, but suffer has very negative connotations. I suppose that a slight negative connotation is unavoidable, but certainly a word as strong as suffer is too far. I'll add that to the question, thanks.
    – dotancohen
    Aug 28, 2015 at 13:57
  • Erm... by its very nature, benefit has positive connotations, and any "true" antonym would have to have negative connotations. If you simply want to convey a neutral absence of advantage (as opposed to a negative disadvantage), @Oldbag's not benefit is probably your only option. Consider not insignificant as the "less extreme" alternative to significant. Aug 28, 2015 at 14:02
  • 2
    If "suffer" is too negative, you may use affected instead of "disadvantaged". "Affected" has 2 meanings: either the neutral sense (acted upon, influenced) or the negative sense (influenced in a harmful way; impaired, harmed, or attacked, as by climate or disease).
    – Graffito
    Aug 28, 2015 at 14:57

6 Answers 6


Actually, the sentence works both ways as it is written. The question comes down to how you stress the wording.

(With excitement:) Who would benefit from adding Foo to Bar? Why, everyone, of course!

(With incredulity:) Who would benefit from adding Foo to Bar? No one, you neanderthal!

It's all in how you say it. If it's in writing, it's in the context and how your speaker conveys it through action.

  • Rhetorically or incredulously asking "who would benefit?" simply implies that no one would benefit. Perhaps the initiative is simply useless and will have no impact at all, either for better or for worse. However the question specifically asks who would be disadvantaged. For that I think you have to use "lose out", as I suggested in my reply. "Nobody benefits" is not the same as "someone is harmed". Mar 15, 2016 at 15:31

The most neutral antonym I can think of would require restructuring the sentance to:

To whose detriment ...

  • That won't work as I am using the sentence to provide a counterpoint to Who would benefit from... and the identical sentence structure is key.
    – dotancohen
    Aug 28, 2015 at 16:23
  • Detriment is neutral?? Who's affected (proposed above) is neutral. Aug 30, 2015 at 2:50

Malefit is an antonym to benefit formed the same way, at least as a noun, but it may be too little used to be understood well enough.

  • 1
    Crissov, that is a terrific word! I fear that the word would only confuse users due to its rarity, but I fully intend to used it to confuse in other situations. Thank you for introducing it to me!
    – dotancohen
    Mar 17, 2016 at 7:02

As a noun, the antonym of "benefit" would be "cost", as in cost-benefit analysis.

Here you are using verbs, so the antonym might be

  • Who would lose out if we add Foo to Bar?

This is a phrasal verb, and so conceptually it's a single word that happens to be written with a space character in the middle.

Example: "... you would have to find out who would benefit and who would lose out by its construction."

  • 1
    Thank you, you can see in the OP why I ruled out 'lose'. By the way, I find it curious that this question generated a sudden flurry of activity. What caused you to find it, might I ask? Thanks!
    – dotancohen
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:31
  • "Lose out" is not the same as "lose", just like "find out" is not the same as "find". Phrasal verbs consisting of a verb+preposition often have a very different meaning from the verb alone. At dictionary.com, lose out (definition 27) is defined as to suffer defeat or loss; fail to obtain something desired. In the second sense it can refer to an opportunity cost, which suits your desired meaning of "not receiving a utility". Mar 15, 2016 at 15:42
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    I came here because this question appeared at the top of the list of questions with recent activity. My guess is that someone discovered it through a search engine like Google and answered it, which caused it to have recent activity and caused it to reappear for the rest of us. Mar 15, 2016 at 15:44

My best idea would be:

Who would be harmed by adding Foo to Bar?

of course, there's a danger that it could be too specific. Also, you could consider using active voice.

Adding Foo to Bad would (disadvantage/harm) who?

  • Thank you, but as I mention in the OP, due to context, the be * needs to be a single word. I.e., a word of the same part of speech as benefit in the example.
    – dotancohen
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:12
  • @dotancohen well, I added another sugestion, change the voice of the sentence.
    – tox123
    Mar 19, 2016 at 0:22

Disbenefit has been defined in most dictionaries I checked.

On Merriam-Webster,

something disadvantageous or objectionable : drawback
"the question whether allowing the big-box stores in would be a disbenefit to the community"

On Collins Dictionaries, The Free Dictionary and on Oxford Dictionaries.

It should be noted that its usage as a noun is very rare, and as a verb is almost non-existent. In a world where "science" can be a verb, I'm sure people will understand if you use "disbenefit" as a verb just like "benefit" is used.

Conclusion: It's better to stick with using words like disadvantage, drawback, affect, suffer, and others depending on the context and the degree by which the subject is negatively affected.

Here's an Ngram, for fun.

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