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What is the difference between 'steal' and 'rob?' by Professor Mayfair

Q. Why is this sentence wrong: ‘I was stolen my bag at the weekend?’ This happened to me at the weekend but when I told my British friend about it she said this sentence is not correct. I checked in my dictionary and it is correct word! I don’t understand, please help!

Bo Young, South Korea


I am sure I can help you with this, Bo Young. This is a very common error for students to make because both the verbs steal and rob have similar meanings. However, there is an important difference between these verbs, we use them like this:

to steal something from somebody: eg. my watch was stolen, he stole my watch, they stole my laptop from me

to rob somebody/a bank/a shop/ a house etc: eg. a man robbed me (of my watch), the bank was robbed yesterday, my local Tesco was robbed at the weekend.

The important thing to remember is that you can steal something from someone but you can’t steal someone!  A person can be robbed (ie: have their property taken from them) but not stolen (taken away by the thief).  This is why your friend corrected you.


Also, in your example sentence, the bag is the most important word so we can use a passive sentence like this: My bag was stolen at the weekend. Or, alternatively, in an active sentence: Somebody stole my bag at the weekend.

Try to complete these sentences for practice:

The men were planning to ____________ the bank on the corner.

I am sure that my flatmate is ____________from me!!

My house was ________ at the weekend!

My TV was ____________last week.

I hope that you never need to use these words again while you are in London!  Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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