I am looking for a way to say that someone took or grabbed something from someone while communicating that it was done delicately/gently or at least in a neutral or non-aggressive way. Not sure if it's just me, but when I think of 'take' or 'grab' it has a certain 'roughness' to it, almost like steal but not quite as much.

Sample usage:

Julie handed over her family urn, John took/grabbed it and put it down.

In the above example (without knowing John) I get the feeling that John isn't being very careful/respectful with what Julie is giving him. I could add in some adjectives (eg. John carefully took it and put it down) but I am hoping a better word exists. 'Held' probably sounds the best to me but I'm not sure if the meaning is the same eg. John held it and put it down, does that mean he actually received it or was holding it to begin with? And 'received' just sounds like John works for Fedex.

Is there a way to get this point across with just one word or do I need a phrase that clarifies the context?

  • A Thesaurus would do the job for you. If he put it down right away I cannot say how much he cared about it. To take using care could be described as received it with care. Also took charge of it.
    – Elliot
    Apr 17, 2022 at 2:08
  • Yep, did this for Take and Receive, but only Held seems to work, I've questioned above though whether it's grammatically correct in this context?
    – FrontEnd
    Apr 17, 2022 at 2:16
  • 1
    Try grasp. . . . .
    – Xanne
    Apr 17, 2022 at 2:39

2 Answers 2


"Took" is Plenty Gentle, "Grab" is Not, And...

In the given context, took is not at all aggressive. Saying John took what Julie handed over is very different from saying, for example, "John saw Julie holding the urn–and took it." So the framing matters.

Still, to answer the question more directly, here is the softest way to communicate someone taking something:

Julie handed over her family urn. John looked it over and put it down.

Here, we simply omit the statement–and let the reader infer that John received the urn. Thus, we avoid needing to find a soft verb (or worse needing to soften with an adverb). Thus, OP's intuition about "held" is a good one too:

Julie handed over her family urn. John held it carefully, looked it over, and put it down.

Again: simply leaving the taking to be inferred.

  • That helps a lot. With 'held', I always thought that it meant 'holding' something and therefore the actual taking already happened prior, so saying 'John took the urn' in my mind means John is picking it up now, but 'John held the urn' means it is already in his hands he does not need to pick it up. Correct? If so, saying 'John saw the urn. John took the urn' is not the same as 'John saw the urn. John held the urn', and isn't this second one also incorrect since it has skipped the picking up part? Hopefully that makes sense, let me know if not.
    – FrontEnd
    Apr 17, 2022 at 15:10
  • Leaving out "took" and going straight to "held" is not incorrect at all: it simply leaves implied that John picked up the urn, without stating it outright. Different kinds of writing require different levels of specificity. For example, a techical document, like one describing how to assemble some equipment: this will include every step. But when writing fiction, you can let the reader infer things. An example of letting readers infer would be the following: "He went to the beach, had fun in the sun and water, dried off, and headed come. Here, the reader filled in a lot of blanks.
    – Floyd
    Apr 17, 2022 at 15:48
  • Compare that to if — for some reason — you were writing a technical document about the beach story: "He walked on concrete up to the beach, which included sand and water. He walked from the concrete to the sand and began having fun. This fun included the following elements: playing frisbee, building a sandcastle, and talking with friends. He then moved from the sand into the water, and had fun in the water. This fun consisted of swimming by moving his arms back and forth." Here, nothing is inferred.
    – Floyd
    Apr 17, 2022 at 15:53
  • Sometimes, though, non-fiction gives even more detail than would a technical document: "As he approached the beach, he mentally prepared his bare feet for the sand — which would be even hotter than the concrete, which now burned a bit as he approached the familiar scene. His foot then sank into that same hot softness, as he stepped from stone to sand. Bumbling a bit as the sand stole his balance, he strode to his friends, who had camped at the beach overnight in the fighter-jet they had found while spelunking in a nearby volcano."
    – Floyd
    Apr 17, 2022 at 16:03
  • Ok that answers what I was asking. Thank you
    – FrontEnd
    Apr 18, 2022 at 1:34

The word you want is grasp.

v. grasped, grasp·ing, grasps v.tr.

  1. To take hold of or seize firmly with the hand, the foot, another body part, or an instrument: The elephant grasped the branch with its trunk.
  2. To hold with the arms; embrace.
  3. To take hold of intellectually; comprehend. See Synonyms at understand.


  • "seize firmly" doesn't sound "softer".
    – Stuart F
    Apr 17, 2022 at 20:53

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