You know, "confuse" is a transitive verb. However, I found this sentence in the Longman Dictionary when looking up the word "tiresome".

Do not confuse with tiring (=making you feel tired): It was a long, tiring day.

Longman Online

To my limited knowledge, there should be a "it" between "confuse" and "with". Maybe someone could explain it to me, thanks.

  • This question might be more appropriate on English Language Learners. Transitive verbs can take an object but they don't have to. "I'll take this and give it to Jana" has 2 transitive verbs but in "He takes but never gives" neither verb has an object. In other cases the object is simply assumed. But the simplest explanation here is that the dictionary is using an abbreviated style (hence also using = instead of equals). It's a common style for any set of instructions, whether it's how to use English correctly, or in recipes (eg "heat, then serve"), or how to assemble something, etc. Commented May 30, 2022 at 5:19
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    Of course, but there's nothing to explain. It's just the dictionary compressing part of the definition by omitting surplus material to save space. Perfectly normal. Incidentally, "confuse" can be either trans ("You're confusing me") or intrans ("I'm confused about this").
    – BillJ
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 5:42
  • @Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica I still can't tell this forum from "English Language Learners". Is there a simple way for me to judge where I should ask a question? And return to my question, are you saying transitive verbs could behave like intransitive verbs under some particular conditions? Under these conditions, we assume there is an object.
    – Pop Young
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 5:54
  • @BillJ I'm afraid there is something wrong with your interpretation. Only transitive verbs have passive forms.
    – Pop Young
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 6:04
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    @PopYoung, The difference between English Language Learners and English Language & Usage is supposed to be English Language Learners is for basic language usage questions and English Language & Usage is for discussions of language rules. The answer I provided below would be appropriate for English Language Learners while a discussion of the grammar of the verb, its lexical use, all the gory details about the construction of language is preferred here. So, do you want to know all the rules from a professional? Ask here. Are you just looking for an answer? Ask there. (And yet, it will always be the case that English Language Learners questions are asked here. C'est la vie.)
    – JBH
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


This kind of simplification happens in English. Neither the full form of the sentence nor a simplified version using a pronoun are necessary because the sentence is being used in relation to a specific and previously defined object. In this case, you're reading about the definition of the word "tiresome." That means the sentence can only be (or should only be) interpreted in relation to that word. This means you can simplify the sentence by dropping the object reference.

Full reference: Do not confuse the word tiresome with tiring...

simplified reference using a pronoun: Do not confuse it with tiring...

Simplified reference dropping the object: Do not confuse with tiring...

All three of those are correct.

Now that you know what's going on, listen/watch for it. You'll discover that object references are simplified regularly.

But I'll give you credit for this: the sentence with the dropped object reads fine ... but if you were to say that to someone, it would sound funny. I suspect that's because spoken English can't guarantee the object reference as well as written English. Were someone to speak that sentence, I would expect them to use either the full reference or, more frequently, the simplified reference using a pronoun.

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    FFS, it's just an an example of dictionary compression. Perfectly normal and extremely common.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 6:33
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    @BillJ yes, in the particular case of the OP's example it is an example of dictionary compression - but it happens all over the place (not just in dictionaries) and was worth explaining.
    – JBH
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 15:45

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