Friday, April 6

22 Meanings of the Word “Engage” (Hung Ho’s Question)

My Hongkongese friend Hung Ho asked me about the word “Engage.” Here’s my explanation ;-)

Engage” is a simple enough word; innocent-looking. But many learners have a lot of trouble using it for one reason: There are far too many similar uses of this word, and each of them has a different meaning.

All of these uses usually get thrown together inside our brains in one tangled mess. As a result, we don’t know how to use any one of them.

So, let’s try to untangle each and every use …

First of all, let’s concentrate on its original form. The word “Engage” is primarily a Verb.

As a Verb, “Engage” has 2 kinds: IV and TV.

(These mean Intransitive Verb and Transitive Verb).

Both as a TV and as an IV, “Engage” has several meanings. 

Here they are...

As an Intransitive Verb (IV)

1.       Engage

Meaning: To embark in a business, to get involved in, to be employed, to spend effort or time etc. on

Example: My father engages in auto repair/ local politics. The son finally engaged in his father’s business.

2.       Engage

Meaning: To participate in

Example: They engaged in a discussion.

3.       Engage

Meaning: To meet in a conflict, battle etc.

Example: The two armies engaged in the desert. / The dogs immediately engaged.

4.       Engage

Meaning: To interlock (Mechanics)

Example: The gears engage.

* Please take a look at the illustration:

image courtesy of stock.xchng

*Opposite: Disengage

Next, as a Transitive Verb

5.       Engage

Meaning: To interlock with (Mechanics)

Example: The gears engage each other./ The teeth of the two gears engage one another.

6.       Engage

Meaning: To bring in for service, employment, association, help etc.

Example: The entrepreneur engaged 15 workers./ The government engages young men for military service./ She usually engages her friends in her charity projects.

7.       Engage

Meaning: To reserve (a space)

Example: The team engaged a meeting room.

8.       Engage

Meaning: To meet in a contest, conflict, battle etc.

Example: The army finally engaged the enemy at dawn./ The sumo wrestlers engaged each other.

9.       Engage

Meaning: To occupy the attention and efforts of etc.

Example: The study of birds engages him. / He engaged her in conversation.

10.   Engage

Meaning: To catch and hold the attention or interest of, to attract etc.

Example: A good speaker engages his audience.

11.   Engage

Meaning: To please

Example: Her cheerful personality engages everyone she meets.

12.   Engage

Meaning: To make liable

Example: The court engaged him to pay for his daughter’s schooling.

NOTE: There are other meanings of the Verb “engage,” but I chose not to include some of them here (the rarer ones) to avoid confusion

There’s another form of the word “Engage.” This is “Engaged” – with the letter “D” at the end.

This time, it’s an Adjective.

As an Adjective (Engaged)

13.   Engaged

Meaning: Eager, interested etc.

Example: The audience was engaged./ He looks utterly engaged.  

14.   Engaged

Meaning: Busy/ Unavailable  

Example: I’m sorry but Mr. Smith is engaged at the moment. Would you like to wait for him or leave a message? / The rest room is engaged.

15.   Engaged

Meaning: Involved, especially in a conflict, battle etc.

Example: The ships are engaged on the high seas.

16.   Engaged

Meaning: Have pledged or promised, especially for marriage


Q: Are you engaged?

A: Yes, I am.

17.   Engaged

Meaning: Caught/ interlocked etc. (Mechanics)

Example: You have to keep the gear engaged.

As an Adjective (Engaging)

18.   Engaging

Meaning: Interesting

Example: What an engaging lecture!

19.   Engaging

Meaning: Pleasing

Example: She has such an engaging personality!


As a Noun (Engagement)

20.   Engagement

Meaning: A pledge, especially for marriage

Example: Did you make it to their engagement party?

21.   Engagement

Meaning: An appointment


Q: Would you like to go to the movies with me tonight? 

A: Sorry but I have a previous engagement.

22.   Engagement

Meaning: Booking (of performers)

Example: His band was hired for a limited engagement.

Hope you learned something!


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