offer /supply/provide something

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ofriendragon, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Hello, everyone,

    What's the difference between these phrases ?

    offer something
    supply something
    provide something

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Since you haven't provided any context, I can only say that to "offer" something means that you've offered to supply or provide something. Whether the offer is accepted or not, we don't know. Without further context, to "supply" or "provide" something means the same thing.
  3. Joje18 New Member

    I would also say that to offer something is to make something available without knowing if it will be accepted. You offer to help someone, or you offer more potatoes at the dinner table. A person will reply by accepting or declining your offer.

    To supply something is to make something available as per a request. Supplies are things that you need, such as office supplies, which can be found in office supply stores. It's difficult to make a clear distinction here.

    To provide something is similar to supplying it, such that it is also a response to a need. You can provide the necessary medical attention to an injured person. Provide is different than supply in that you do not necessarily supply your own expertise as you can provide it. You can provide help, but you cannot supply it. Supplying is for things, provide is for anything.

    I apologize if this is not the clearest definition and I hope that it helps. If anyone else can think of a better way to explain these things, please jump in!
  4. idialegre Senior Member

    Hamburg, Germany
    USA English
    I would just add that all three verbs do not necessarily imply a will or decision on the part of the subject.

    The tree provided shelter from the rain. (It gave shelter, without being asked and without deciding to shelter anybody.)

    A nearby stream supplied them with water and fish. (I don't think this is the best usage of "supplied," but I wouldn't say it was wrong.)

    And even:

    An abandoned house offered them shelter from the storm.

    Here, the verb "offered" means that the possibility of shelter was there, but it does not specify whether they actually used it or not. If it were "provided," that would mean that they had actually used the house for shelter.

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