Possible Duplicate:
“Eat” is to “feed” as “drink” is to what?

Feed: to give food to

When I give the dog a little milk to drink, I say I gave the dog some milk

That however, doesn't seem quite correct. Which word should I use in place of fed for liquids?

  • 3
    I'd just go with "I gave the dog some milk". Tangentially related: You quench your thirst. What do you do with your hunger?
    – RegDwigнt
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:26
  • I find quite a few hits for feeding critters water. So it does get used, although clearly water is not food, or you would not say “food and water”. Similarly, you can go three weeks without food but only three days without water. And yet apparently you can feed something food and water. You hear people speaking of watering their horses, but milking one’s cows is something else again.
    – tchrist
    Dec 16, 2012 at 18:27
  • 1
    Agreed. But I can't help but wonder if there is a single perfectly apt word. Dec 16, 2012 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


As for a liquid equivalent of feed, English doesn't have one. To water is the conventional equivalent. You can water any animal in the sense of giving them water to drink. Indeed, to feed and water is a fixed conjoined verb phrase.

To water in this sense is a straighforward Provisional Verbing, where the subject provides the direct object with the verb's noun. In this case it's water; but other fluids present problems.

Milk, for instance, being a liquid produced by animals, already has a Privative Verbing

  • to milk a cow/goat/laugh/sucker

In this sense, the subject deprives the direct object of the verb's noun (milk, or its metaphoric analogs in milking a laugh or milking a sucker), by removing it; the Privative is the opposite of the Provisional. So that conflicts with a Provisional use.

It is possible in some cases to use the same verbed noun in both senses, as in seed a pepper (remove seeds) vs seed a lawn (add seeds); context distinguishes nicely here, because both are conventional activities.

Nevertheless, to milk won't work provisionally; I doubt anybody would understand a request to milk the baby as anything but a private joke. And providing non-humans with milk is not a conventional enough cultural activity to rate its own idiom.

  • 1
    Brilliant explanation. Could you please add the best way in which I could refer to the activity? Is I gave the dog some milk as suggested by @regdwigh the best alternative? Dec 16, 2012 at 19:44
  • 2
    Yeah, probably. It certainly does the job, and that's what phrases are for. Dec 16, 2012 at 20:11

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