To eat is like to feed to yourself; is there a similar word for to wear? For example, I wear pants, but when I do the same activity to another person, what is the word?

Also, is there a name for such concept, related words eat/feed?

If feed is xonym (due to lack of any terminology on my part) of eat, dress seems to be xonym of wear as VonC explained but still it doesn't quite fit


Father eat banana -> Father feed me banana
Father wear shirt -> Father dress me shirt

but Father dress me shirt isn't quite right; it looks like I need to add a in.

May be I am expecting too much from English and I anyway know too little of it.

  • 5
    You seem disappointed that you are not getting a 1-to-1 syntactic correspondence between every component of the sentence. Feed is a ditransitive verb, and there doesn't happen to be a ditransitive verb for dressing someone. So any equivalent is going to have to use some kind of preposition (like in, in the case of dress). Here are some English ditransitives: cse.unsw.edu.au/~billw/ditransitive.html. Most verbs are not ditransitive in English.
    – Kosmonaut
    Oct 7, 2010 at 15:28
  • @Kosmonaut, thanks, so that seems to be the answer, yes I am disappointed because in my native language hindi (hi) every verb can be made ditransitive by just few changes Oct 7, 2010 at 17:01
  • "Father dress me in a shirt" is what you'd say. It may not be a perfect parallel, but there is no other single word you could substitute there to make the sentence work.
    – Lynn
    Oct 22, 2011 at 2:34
  • 2
    Note that "Father eat banana" and "Father wear shirt" are not grammatically correct. "Father" is a singular noun but "eat" and "wear" are plural verbs, and "banana" and "shirt" require an article. So correct sentences would be "Father eats a banana" and "Father wears the shirt."
    – Jay
    Mar 28, 2012 at 19:45

4 Answers 4


I would go with "dress":

"wear" being like "dressing oneself".

"feed" and "dress": properly reflexive verbs

The concept of a verb applied to oneself reminds me of reflexive verbs (a verb whose semantic agent and patient (typically represented syntactically by the subject and the direct object) are the same.)

More specifically, Properly reflexive verb, where the agent is simultaneously the patient. The verb is typically transitive, and can be used in non-reflexive meaning as well.

Peter bathes himself. Peter bathes the cat.

Here, "feed" or "dress" would be a properly reflexive verb.

"eat" and "wear": common ambitransitive verbs

An ambitransitive verb is a verb that can be used both as intransitive or as transitive without requiring a morphological change. That is, the same verb form may or may not require a direct object.

When the subject of the intransitive form of the verb is an agent (like the subject of the transitive form), so that the verb aligns the syntactic roles S and A, then the verb is a common ambitransitive with an optional object, and the intransitive version is an unergative verb.

So the question which remains is:

"What would you call the relationship between:

  • properly reflexive verbs and
  • common ambitransitive verbs


I'm getting the feeling that the answer is waaay more simpler than this detailed grammatical analysis ;)

  • 2
    @RegDwight: I'm having a hard time seeing "eat" and "feed" as "opposite".
    – VonC
    Oct 7, 2010 at 8:56
  • +1 for nice explanation, but the question remains, how will i use dress, can my son say "Papa dress the pant" instead of "Papa put pant on me" (I am not even sure that is correct English, what then?) though he can "Papa feed me" Oct 7, 2010 at 9:56
  • @Anurag: I tried to complete my answer, but without any definitive elements though.
    – VonC
    Oct 7, 2010 at 11:25
  • 1
    How is 'wear' ambitransitive? It is obligatorily transitive in my idiolect (except in the entirely different sense of 'be eroded')
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 8, 2010 at 14:57
  • 2
    @VonC: "my patience is wearing thin" is surely a metaphorical application of the 'erosion' sense, not the 'clothing' sense.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 12, 2010 at 14:44

"Clothe" is another possibility.

  • But you don't "clothe the pants on him." You "clothe him with pants." So this answer is wrong.
    – ErikE
    Mar 27, 2012 at 22:45
  • 1
    She fed me with gruel and I ate it. She clothed me with rags and I wore them.
    – GEdgar
    Mar 28, 2012 at 19:51
  • @GEdgar Note: you need to tag me for me to be sure to see your response. Now, the OP's example (correcting grammar) is "Father feeds me a banana." This clearly means that he wants a verb whose direct object is the item being worn, NOT the person receiving the item. One cannot use clothe in this way, as in, "clothe me some pants." Your example sentences are just. flat. wrong.
    – ErikE
    Mar 29, 2012 at 7:57

You're looking for a word that can fill in "to [ verb ] pants on/to him".

Here are my ideas. None of these is really perfect because there is no English word that directly connotes cause [d.o.] to be worn/[i.o.] to dress the same way that feed [d.o.] connotes cause [d.o] to be eaten/[i.o.] to eat.

  • install
  • put
  • position
  • place
  • emplace
  • bind
  • wrap
  • lodge
  • settle
  • locate
  • situate
  • stick

Many of these can be said to be done to the person as well, but all of them, however awkward, could be done to pants.

Note that the idea of verbing pants may be tempting, but in colloquial speech "to pants" someone means to yank his pants down to his ankles.

  • As always, I smack a gauntlet in the face of those drive-by downvoters who don't bother to post their reasons so this humble poster can learn or understand. Coward! :)
    – ErikE
    Mar 29, 2012 at 7:50

I believe the word you are looking for is don.

In the same way you can "eat a grape" or "feed to yourself a grape," you can "don a hat" or "wear on yourself a hat".

It even has a convenient antonym, doff!

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