Can I literally 'uproot' to somewhere, even if the verb doesn't explicitly say the subject goes there?

For example, can I say

The flowers have been uprooted to the greenhouse.

Obviously I can say that the flowers have been moved to the greenhouse, because that's what 'move' means. But 'uprooted' means

The official definitions don't seem to imply that a direction is supposed to be involved.

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    You just did it. Did lightning strike you dead? (Usages such as you suggest are quite common in less-than-formal contexts. What's "right" or "wrong" is largely dependent on your audience, and your ability to convey the intended metaphor to them.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 21:34
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    @EdwinAshworth - Actually, none of the Ngram "hits" for the "uprooted" phrase are valid, so far as I could tell. But that doesn't say it's "wrong".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 22:58
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    It makes an interesting sentence. I'm wondering what happened, to the flowers. Did a young child pull them up messily, trailing earth along the carpet, on her way to the greenhouse, followed by her dog...? This is good, it's engaging, it's alive! If writers confine themselves to 'what and how things are being said, by everyone else' eg Ngrams then won't language will just mish, and mash into a kind of grey wallpaper paste of broken alphabetti spaghetti? Put vitality and invention over absolute grammatical perfection, I'd say.
    – Jelila
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 0:15
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    Consider that it's quite normal for someone to write "Ted's family was uprooted from Italy during WWII," or something of that ilk. This doesn't mean that the family was (necessarily) tossed on the ground and stomped on, only that the activity involved was somewhat abrupt.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 3:53
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    There's all kinds of levels at which we could discuss the sentence--but grammatically, it seems to fit existing patterns of speech well enough.
    – David K
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 20:22

4 Answers 4


I think your example obscures things a bit.

The flowers have been uprooted to the greenhouse.

This is a very specific type of sentence. It's phrased in the passive voice, it's written in the past tense, and it also lacks the subject that is doing the uprooting. This makes it an agentless passive sentence in the past tense. If we rephrase it to be an active sentence in the present tense it's a lot clearer what is actually going on.

They uproot the flowers to the greenhouse.

This doesn't make much sense taken literally. Because of this, it's pretty clear that you're just using a heavy dose of ellipsis here. Without the ellipsis, the sentence looks more like

They uproot the flowers and take them to the greenhouse.

What this means is that while the sentence makes sense, it only makes sense because people can piece together what the sentence means through contextual knowledge. I would avoid using uproot like this.


I've never heard "to" used like this; I've most often heard "from" used in this context in conjunction with "and moved to": "They were uprooted from such-and-such and moved to other-place."

The other wording sounds awkward to me, mostly because of the use of "to" but also because of the passive voice.

Also: When speaking of a person I would use the phrase "pulled up roots." Generally, if I can't decide which way to use a word or phrase, I'll just reword it and/or use a different one ;)


I don't like it, but I suppose it's a matter of taste. The meaning is fairly clear, but it seems a bit odd to me, as if you had omitted a second verb, e.g. 'taken'. If you choose to use 'uproot' in this way, you should be aware that you are doing so in an unconventional and unidiomatic way – not that there is anything wrong with such creative uses per se. Having said that, 'uproot' does at least have an implicit sense of motion. It might be interesting to try other examples. 'I was persuaded to the party' and 'I was allowed home' seem to work, but 'I was forbidden to Yorkshire' not.


Can you say such … Yes! Where such end up after being uprooted is after a comma or in another sentence as @Hot Licks commented.

Definitions of uproot from Merriam-Webster:

transitive verb

  1. to remove as if by pulling up
  2. to pull up by the roots
  3. to displace from a country or traditional habitat

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