The verb “grieve”

A colleague asked, “Can the verb ‘grieve’ be transitive?” That is, can it take an object? I thought of the construction “grieve the loss.” I wondered, though, if this were a construction that had been construed from “grieve for a loss.”

Indeed, this usage has shifted over the years. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the transitive verb “grieve” was traditionally used with the person to whom the grief was caused as the object: The pastor’s death grieves the congregation. But over the years, the construction changed to allow the thing that caused the grief to be the object: The congregation grieves the pastor’s death.

Bryan Garner in “Garner’s Modern American Usage” notes, however, that the verb is usually intransitive, meaning “to feel grief.”

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.