I'm currently struggling with some words and how to use them in phrases. I have looked up the word 'inhibit' using the on-line Collins Dictionary, which said:

To inhibit someone from doing something means to prevent them from doing it, although they want to do it or should be able to do it.

I think I now understand this word better. Can you tell me if I have used this word correctly in the following sentence:

Don't surround yourself with people that try to inhibit who you are.

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  • Inhibit goes better with doing than with being. You would be understood, but the phrase inhibit who you are isn't optimal. You might consider the verb stifle. "...who try to stifle you".
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:38

2 Answers 2


The verb 'inhibit' has two related meanings:

To prevent someone from doing something by making them feel nervous or embarrassed

Some workers were inhibited (from speaking) by the presence of their managers.

To slow down a process or the growth of something

This drug inhibits the growth of tumours.

Taking the first meaning, the idea expressed in your sentence could be written thus: Don't surround yourself with people that try to inhibit you from being who you are.

Inhibit (Cambridge)

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    I think OP should take particular note of your first definition. To my mind, inhibit normally implies hinder, slow down, constrain rather than outright prevent. That sense of "absolute" prevention usually only applies in the very specific context of people not doing (or more often, not saying) something because they're embarrassed or fearful of consequences. OP needs to understand that outside of that specific context, "inhibit" usually implies something is actually happening - just not so much as it would do if it weren't constrained / inhibited by something. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 15:37
  • They haven't come back for clarification in the two years that have elapsed. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 17:12
  • Well, I guess when I said OP there, there, strictly speaking I meant the OP and anyone else seeking enlightenment here (as opposed to the likes of me and you, who probably already know about the two meanings, and how / where they're normally employed). Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 17:23

While you have the general meaning, your example is slightly off.

Don't surround yourself with people that try to inhibit who you are.

Inhibit, as you said, means to prevent from doing. "Who you are" isn't something you're doing. A more natural phrasing would be,

Don't surround yourself with people that try to inhibit you from being who you are.

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