"A Day’s Wait" by E. Hemingway


Downstairs, the doctor left three different medicines in different colored capsules with instructions for giving them.


  1. What is "instructions for giving them"?
  2. Why the word "giving" is used here?
  • What exactly is confusing you about this sentence? The word giving seems to be pretty obvious, and as for the instructions part, doctors who prescribe a medicine will also provide the frequency, timing, dosage etc. for correct treatment
    – ColonD
    Apr 20, 2018 at 13:31
  • @ColonD - Any time a word has well over a dozen definitions, I try to be careful about saying that its meaning should be "pretty obvious." That said, I do think this definition, found in Wordnik, might be helpful: To administer: give him some cough medicine.
    – J.R.
    Apr 20, 2018 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


"Instructions for giving them" are intended, for example, for a parent giving medications to a child, for a doctor giving them to school children, for a nurse giving them to an older person in a nursery home or for someone giving them to a dog.

"Instructions for taking them" are intended for a reader of the instructions who will be also the one who will take the medications.

  • It's worth pointing out the different nuances of the word give that may make a learner more confused. After all, a parent can give a lollipop to a child, a man might give an old lawnmower to his neighbor, a dog owner might give a dog a bone, and a doctor might give some advice to a patient. These instances of give are not quite the same as "giving medicine", which, as you say, is more about how to take the medication (i.e., proper frequency and dosage).
    – J.R.
    Apr 20, 2018 at 14:11
  • @J.R. Yes, an example are instructions for a doctor how to give an injection.
    – Jan
    Apr 20, 2018 at 14:12

In English, we say: to give medicine(s) to someone based on instructions that come with the medicine (medication, pills) or are provided by a doctor.

In the field of medicine, the formal way to say "give medicine to someone" is "to administer medication to a patient".

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