I'm working on a passage of writing and found a spot I'd marked for additional research. Two characters who have known each other for a long time have kind of started to have a falling out in recent months (Character A is upset about something Character B did, and while he understands why she did it, he still doesn't necessarily agree with her justification).

In the scene in question, things are a little bit tense, and Character A lashes out a little at Character B without meaning to. Character B is the POV character in this scene, and she observes the following:

" It seemed the subtle anger he’d harbored [with / for] her for the past couple of years had never fully ebbed."

Based on the sentence structure, I've been under the impression that either with or for would technically be correct in this instance, but is either of them more correct than the other? Or more widely accepted / commonly used? Using for would definitely make the sentence clunky, so if that was the more correct of the two, I'd need to re-work everything a bit.

Or, as a third option, would toward work? It would basically be the same as saying "anger he'd held toward her."

Basically, what's my best option?

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    I'd pick 'toward' or 'against'. Sep 8, 2016 at 21:45
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    This seems to be asking for writing advice and doesn't really include any of your own research. What does your research show about using "for" or "with" and if you have a further question after that, can you elaborate on why you're uncertain about the use of either preposition? (FWIW, "harbored" is usually used with "resentment".) Sep 8, 2016 at 21:56
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    @Kristina: Bizarrely, it seems that in recent decades Americans have come to harbor anger far more than Brits harbour anger. I'm heartened to see that Brits don't even harbour resentment so much now, but I'm afraid US usage is still increasing for that too. Sep 8, 2016 at 22:29
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    @Kristina: I like it when the spelling gives us a chance to improve on Google Books' lamentably inaccurate "US/UK corpus" classifications. But if you believe those classifications, Brits are 50% more likely to bear grudges! :) Sep 8, 2016 at 22:39
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    @EJF - gotcha...then I'd go along with developerwjk's suggestion as "toward" or "against" as usual choices to go along with "harbored". Sep 8, 2016 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


Harbor or harbour anger for both seem incorrect, googling them yields 900 results and 205 results, respectively.

Harbor or harbour anger with both seem incorrect too, googling them yields 462 results and 9 results, respectively.

In fact, just Googling "harbor anger" and "harbour anger", yield very few (relative to other phrases in English) results: 28.900 results and 9.420 results, respectively.

Some of the other proposed options (limiting to the American spelling, which has the most results in total): "harbor anger toward": 3950 results "harbor anger towards": 4150 results 19.900 results

As noted in the comments, it seems to be a biblical term

Harbor can be used in conjunction with a noun, according to OLD:

harbor something: to keep feelings or thoughts, especially negative ones, in your mind for a long time

Example (from OLD): The arsonist may harbor a grudge against the company.

Considering "harboring anger against" got the most hits on Google, and the fact that "harbor a grudge against" is used in the OLD, I think that is your best option if you want to use the phrasal verb to harbor anger.

  • i would harbor anger 'against' and affections 'toward'.
    – lbf
    Mar 17, 2018 at 16:10

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