bullies respond to strength or strength respond to bullie


Senior Member
"bullies respond to strength" or "strength respond to bullies" ?

Hello all,

There is a actor's line from a Britain film "Love Actually". In that film, the prime minister said:"And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward."

My question is about the phrase "respond to sb/sth".

I looked up my dictionary(Oxford 7th headword "respond") and many examples from it told me that normally after the preposition "to" man should use the objective.

For instance: She never responded to my letter.
In this example the word "letter" is objective.

For instance: The car responds very well to the controls.
In this example the word "controls" is objective.

So I think that actor's line "And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward." is incorrect. This expression makes me confuesd. I think the object should be "bullies" not "strength". "Strength" should be the subject.

The correct way of saying that should be:"And since only strength responds to bullies". or "And since only with Strength responds to bullies".

I think only those two sayings which I have given above are correct. Are you for or against my opinion? What're your views? I am looking for an authoritative answer from native speaker.

Thanks again.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, the original is correct. What he means can be rephrased with 'strength' as subject: (Only) strength can be used against bullies. And of course bullies use strength too. What the line means is that, when bullies use strength against you, the only thing you can do back is use strength against them. And they will respond to that (it will affect them - they suffer from your strength). They don't respond to argument or persuasion, or to pleas.
    < Previous | Next >