What's the difference between give and give way. I'll start with what I know so far, and what I think to be the case, please set me straight where you think I'm wrong.

Dictionary definitions

Give= yield or give way to pressure --> "the heavy door didn't give until the fifth push"

Give way=if something gives way, it breaks or falls down because there is too much weight or pressure on it

So "give way" is a direct synonym, but unlike "give" ( meaning "to yield"), it takes ( or may not take) an object --> " The door didn't give way / didn't give way to pressure until the fifth push"

But , it has several more meanings, derived from this one meaning, where "give" alone can't replace it. For instance:

-To be followed, succeeded, or replaced by --> ‘Alan's discomfort gave way to anger’ --> In some areas, modern intensive farming is giving way to the re-introduction of traditional methods

(To me, it seems like it implies a certain reluctance (literal or metaphorical) from the party that "yields", and thus the one that replaces the other tends to be more powerful, "forcing" the other aside. In other words - and I'll take an example from above- modern intensive farming holds out as much as possible, but eventually caves in, and farmers stop holding onto it, and bring back traditional methods, having to admit for instance, that they work better or whatever. So to me there's a sense of "overpowering" or " overwhelming", or something along those lines.

-To give precedence to other road users (yield in AE)

Are there any nuances I should be aware of?

  • 1
    Hello, Daniel. This has the makings of a good question, but you should add supporting evidence (eg example sentences of these senses from dictionaries, with links). Dec 26, 2017 at 12:47
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    You show a good understanding of these uses. To give means to yield (some amount). To give way means to yield entirely, failing and/or being replaced by something else.
    – Davo
    Dec 26, 2017 at 15:13
  • All those uses of give way are connected; they are not separate. All (the give ways) mean that some x is being replaced by some due to some kind of literal or non-literal pressure.
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2018 at 22:39

1 Answer 1


The comments are as usual the best advice.

To give is, as expected, to offer up. In the case of the door it means its offering up in response to the force against it, particularly to the satisfaction of those pushing on it. it would not give despite their efforts to make it do so. To give way is to give up or yield entirely, catastrophically.

Usage such as ‘Alan's discomfort gave way to anger’ are idiomatic in telling you about Alan's efforts and the writer's perception of the outcome. Alan may have had no discomfort whatsoever and been angry for other reasons. I believe what the resisting object gives way to may be well understood without taking an object.

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