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)
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.
Meaning: To participate in
Example: They engaged in a discussion.
Meaning: To meet in a conflict, battle etc.
Example: The two armies engaged in the desert. / The dogs immediately engaged.
Meaning: To interlock (Mechanics)
Example: The gears engage.
* Please take a look at the illustration:
Next, as a Transitive Verb
Meaning: To interlock with (Mechanics)
Example: The gears engage each other./ The teeth of the two gears engage one another.
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.
Meaning: To reserve (a space)
Example: The team engaged a meeting room.
Meaning: To meet in a contest, conflict, battle etc.
Example: The army finally engaged the enemy at dawn./ The sumo wrestlers engaged each other.
Meaning: To occupy the attention and efforts of etc.
Example: The study of birds engages him. / He engaged her in conversation.
Meaning: To catch and hold the attention or interest of, to attract etc.
Example: A good speaker engages his audience.
Meaning: To please
Example: Her cheerful personality engages everyone she meets.
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)
Meaning: Eager, interested etc.
Example: The audience was engaged./ He looks utterly 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.
Meaning: Involved, especially in a conflict, battle etc.
Example: The ships are engaged on the high seas.
Meaning: Have pledged or promised, especially for marriage
Q: Are you engaged?
A: Yes, I am.
Meaning: Caught/ interlocked etc. (Mechanics)
Example: You have to keep the gear engaged.
As an Adjective (Engaging)
Example: What an engaging lecture!
Example: She has such an engaging personality!
As a Noun (Engagement)
Meaning: A pledge, especially for marriage
Example: Did you make it to their engagement party?
Meaning: An appointment
Q: Would you like to go to the movies with me tonight?
A: Sorry but I have a previous engagement.
Meaning: Booking (of performers)
Example: His band was hired for a limited engagement.
Hope you learned something!