Bestow Is a Transitive Verb
The following use of the verb bestow in an article about Harper Lee in The Washington Post caught my attention:
But for Christmas 1956, a wealthy couple who doted on the struggling young writer bestowed her with enough money to take a year off and write.
The verb bestow has been in the language since Chaucer’s day. It derives from an Old English verb meaning “to place” or “to put.” The meaning that survives in modern speech is “to confer as a gift or as an honor.” The thing being conferred will be the direct object of bestow. Here is the Harper Lee quotation rewritten:
But for Christmas 1956, a wealthy couple who doted on the struggling young writer bestowed enough money on her to take a year off and write.
Here are two more examples that demonstrate the correct use of bestow:
In 1938, Harvard bestowed an honorary degree on Walt Disney.
The object of bestowed is “an honorary degree.”
The prior year, the Belgian government bestowed a set of six medals on the pair for their work with undernourished children.
The object of bestowed is “a set of six medals.”
One source of error is in the use of bestow is to treat it as if it were an exact synonym for give:
The village has also bestowed her a new clinic
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce bestowed her a star on the Walk of Fame.
Each of these sentences uses her as if it were the indirect object of bestow, but bestow does not take an indirect object.
Note: An indirect object stands between a transitive verb and its direct object. Either the preposition to or for is “understood” when an indirect object follows a transitive verb:
She sent me a letter. She sent [to] me a letter.
He built the child a tree house. He built [for] the child a tree house.
The preposition that goes with bestow is on.
The previous sentences may be rewritten in one of two ways:
The village has given her a new clinic.
The village has bestowed a new clinic on her.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce gave her a star on the Walk of Fame.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce bestowed a Hollywood Walk of Fame star on her.
Another error with bestow may result from confusing it with endow:
Incorrect: Johnny Carson bestowed him with the nickname “Excitement.”
Correct : Johnny Carson endowed him with the nickname “Excitement.”
Incorrect: And this genetic trait bestowed him with a gorgeous, spicy-colored ginger coat and big, bright sapphire eyes.
Correct : And this genetic trait endowed him with a gorgeous, spicy-colored ginger coat and big, bright sapphire eyes.
I can’t think of any explanation for this example I found on LinkedIn:
Her experience has bestowed her a notable leader as a seasoned Real Estate Professional.
The intended meaning seems to be “Her experience has transformed her into a notable leader as a seasoned Real Estate Professional.”
Subscribe and Get a Free eBook: 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid
- The subscription is completely free, and we only send out one email per week, on Tuesdays
- Our emails are fun and educating and will help you improve your writing skills
- You can unsubscribe anytime you want and keep the e-book as a gift