From NPR:

Remember the child, in some ways, identifies with both of those parents so if the mother is really asking the child to be her sounding board, she robs that child from the ability to feel good about his connection with the father.

What's the meaning of robs that child from the ability to feel good about his connection with the father? I know that rob has two usages:

  1. rob something from somebody.
  2. rob somebody of something.

But it seems that *the ability to feel good about his connection with the father is belonging to "something", so is it more appropriate to modify the word "from" to "of"? just as follows:

robs that child of the ability to feel good about his connection with the father

Which usage is correct? Thanks.

  • 3
    You mean "modify the word "from" to "of" like you did inside the second blockquote, right? I agree, "of" makes a lot more sense than "from" in this context. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 11:38
  • I think they just made a mistake. I agree with Nick Stauner.
    – user230
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 14:09

3 Answers 3


From here is formally incorrect. What NPR should have said is:

... she robs that child of the ability to feel good ...

Rob is an odd fish; it ordinarily takes at most one complement, but that complement may be either of two entities.

In its oldest (and still primary) sense, it means “deprive someone unlawfully”, and its complement is the victim—the person or institution against whom the offense is committed:

Dick Turpin and ‘Captain’ Tom King robbed virtually everyone who passed their hiding place.
Willie Sutton robbed banks “because that’s where the money is”.

In this sense, the goods taken are expressed in a preposition phrase headed by of:

Footpads robbed him of £24 and his watch.

Quite early, however (OED 1’ earliest citation is 1377), the word was occasionally extended to the sense “take by robbery”, with the complement expressing the goods taken. In this case the victim is expressed in a preposition phrase headed by from:

The gang robbed more than a thousand dollars from passers-by.

But this use has never been common, and it should certainly be avoided in formal contexts.

However, rob may also be used intransitively with the meaning “commit the offense of robbery”, and in this sense the from clause to express the victim is proper:

He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.


Your distinction is sound, but does that make the original sentence wrong? It's hard to say. Prepositions are tricky; just because one preposition is used by convention doesn't mean that another can never be substituted. If the something being robbed is some kind of opportunity or experience, then it seems like either preposition might be acceptable.

I managed to find a published example:

I was obsessed with proving that bad luck had robbed me from being top Irishman at the Olympics...

In that case, I think of could work, but from doesn't sound incorrect to me.

Somehow, when the thing being robbed is an "ability", it seems like there is a bit more flexibility in the preposition, as opposed to if something more tangible (like money) had been stolen.

  • 1
    I think that example is hopelessly "non-standard". Bear in mind that as StoneyB says, He robbed me of X can reasonably (if less commonly) be expressed as He robbed X from me. But in your example that approach would lead us to "He robbed from me from [having] X". Doesn't work for me. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 15:15
  • @Fumble - I wasn't too sure of this answer, either. I stand by the generic statement about prepositions, though. And had the O.P. asked "Which one is standard?" (you deftly avoided that can-of-worms word correct), it would have been easier to answer. I'm glad you left feedback, though; my answer here shouldn't be completely accepted at face value.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 16:13
  • Indeed - that point about prepositions can't be made too often here on ELL. I think there's a particular problem with rob when what's been taken away isn't directly "X", but rather the chance of having X. In such contexts I think there's a "syntactic" influence coming from alternative phrasings such as [unjustly] stopped/prevented me from having X. Perhaps because we know there's something "not quite right" about saying you were robbed of X if you never had X in the first place. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 16:33

She robs that child from the ability to feel good about his connection with the father.

This looks fine to me. The verb rob is this sentence is used to show that the natural tendency of a child liking their father is robbed/taken away.

This is quite similar to an example I found in COCA:

How about because it might have given her the average 19.4 years that breast cancer robs from its victims?

If you consider rob somewhat mean 'stealing' here, this will look better.

  • @snailplane there it's talked abou life that the cancer robs and here its ability or character/emotion per se. Anyway your are the better judge.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 16:07
  • 1
    Oh, I did describe it incorrectly. What I meant to say is this: when you use rob with from, it should be from owner, not from stolen item.
    – user230
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 2:24
  • @snailplane Ah, I see.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 4:23

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