Give or take away something from someone.

The problem in this sentence is that normally one would say "Give to" or "take away from" someone, but what should I write when I want to refer to both alternatives?

3 Answers 3


If that's the exact sentence, then:

Give or take away something.

In that sentence, the "to someone" or "from someone" is unnecessary.

  • 3
    Ahhh! I love the cases when one does not need to solve a problem, but can simply avoid it. I am still interested in how to solve this in other cases, though.
    – David
    Dec 19, 2011 at 14:12
  • 1
    @David if you replace someone with Arthur, it won't be unnecessary anymore :)
    – clabacchio
    May 21, 2012 at 14:59

Presumably you want to remove as much redundancy as possible but maintaining correct syntax.

When you have an alternation, an attempt to combine 'X Z' and 'Y Z', you make take each part completely to give:

X or Y Z

For example, from 'Give something to someone' and Take something away from someone', you get

Give something to or take away something from someone

Because 'Give X to...' and 'Take away X from...' are not perfectly parallel it seems strange, but it's still OK to say:

Give to or take away something from someone

If you don't have the 'to', namely

*Give or take away something from someone

it sounds strange, because in resolving the parallelism it sounds like you are saying 'Give away something from someone' and that is not grammatical.

  • What is the best form for allows to connect or disconnect the battery from the charger system?
    – clabacchio
    May 21, 2012 at 15:03
  • @clabacchio: Ya know, adding the 'to' after 'connect' works, or leaving it actually doesn't sound so terrible. I personally don't care for 'allows to' and prefer 'allows one to'.
    – Mitch
    May 21, 2012 at 16:27

It's a general principle with this type of elision that if there's a grammar conflict between the antecedents (give, take away) and their "shared" clause (to/from someone), you use the word-form that agrees with the last of the antecedents.

Or, as @slim's self-deleted answer suggests, sidestep the issue by not eliding so much "Give to, or take something away from someone."

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