What is the difference between "engaging with someone" and "engaging someone"? For example, what is the difference between these two expressions:

  • How do you engage with your employees?
  • How do you engage your employees?

3 Answers 3


Engage with somebody means, as others have said, to interact with that person, usually from a position of greater power (managers are frequently exhorted to engage with employees, but rarely the other way round). Engage somebody has many possible meanings, depending on context: the army engage the enemy, you may engage somebody in conversation by simply going up and speaking to him, a pretty girl may engage (or behave engagingly to) the man she is interested in. The basic meaning is 'get involved with', which is similar to but not the same as the buzzword engage with.

And, as Barrie says, the usual meaning without explanation of engage a man is to hire him (at least in Britain).

  • "...engage a man or woman" is to "hire them" :) (although a suggested edit was rejected in the review queue, and in the end only a typo was fixed, I do think the anonymous editor had a point)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 26, 2016 at 16:11
  • @Mari-LouA: you are entitled to your own views on style, but not to impose them on me. Apr 26, 2016 at 16:55
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    I wouldn't dream of doing so, I thought you might have been interested, that's all. Sorry.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 26, 2016 at 18:50

The expressions mean the same thing, so I'd pick the shorter one.

However, "engage" is a bit of a buzzword. I'd phrase this differently, depending on what's really meant. For example:

  • How do you motivate your employees?
  • How do you challenge your employees?
  • How do you encourage open communication with your employees?
  • How do you propose marriage to your employees? (Just kidding.)

Engage employees means recruit employees. Engage with employees means interact with them in a postive and mutually beneficial way.

  • I would never have taken "engage" to mean "recruit". I'm an American; perhaps that has some relevance? Mar 12, 2012 at 10:47
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    @Nathan Long: Toggling this NGram for "engage staff" between British and American gives no indication that the usage is specifically British. Mar 12, 2012 at 13:03
  • @Barrie England: Whilst it's true "engage with employees" can only have the meaning you give (i.e. - it never means hire, recruit with "with"), you can validly speak of art which "engages its audience", for example. It's just that given "employees" in the context, we're drawn to one particular interpretation unless there are other reasons to reject it. Mar 12, 2012 at 13:08
  • @FumbleFingers: True, but the OP asks about the verb as it applies to people, and specifically employees. Mar 12, 2012 at 13:48
  • Yes, but Nathan obviously sees both forms as having the proactively interact sense anyway. And I must just say that even in "engage [with] the audience", I see the preposition as shifting the meaning. Without it, you can be talking about the art "reaching out" to a still potentially somewhat "passive" audience. If you do use the preposition, it more strongly implies forcing a two-way interaction. Mar 12, 2012 at 14:36

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