In the sentence given below

U.S. objections draw in part from its eagerness to export liquefied natural gas to Europe, besides thwarting Moscow’s ambition to dominate the region’s energy market.

I don't understand the meaning of the word draw used. In this sentence the word draw is used intransitively but I think it must be used transitively because as a transitive verb it (draw) does not carry any meaning.

  • 2
    I think you are right that this is an anomalous intransitive use. It is a middle-voice use, parallel with The food cooks quickly vs I cook the food quickly; but it is not normal for this verb.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 1 '20 at 19:25

Definition (6) ODE.

Be the cause of (a specified response)

‘He drew criticism for his lavish spending’

6.5 Formulate or perceive (a comparison or distinction)

The law drew a clear distinction between innocent and fraudulent misrepresentation’

  • I don't think either of these meanings fits the use. I agree with the OP that this is an anomalous intransitive use.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 1 '20 at 19:22

The writer is misusing a metaphor. In this metaphor the word "draw" means "to pull something toward oneself". Some examples of its literal meaning.

He brought a bucket to draw water from the well.

Here the person with the bucket will pull the water up out of the well. Here is another example:

The horses drew the sleigh swiftly through the snow.

The horses are causing the sleigh to move by pulling on it.

The officer drew his gun from its holster.

This means that the officer pulled up on the handle of the gun causing it to come out of this holder on his belt.

The word "draw" is used metaphorically to talk about the source of something such as money or ideas. For example:

After the hurricane the governor proposed to draw from the rainy day fund.

He wants to take money out of the fund. An example in which ideas are drawn:

His new musical composition draws from diverse genres.

This means that he "drew" (took) ideas from music of many different styles.

In the quote you give in your question the metaphor is misused. The perceived eagerness of the US to export gas comes from within. So it is not "drawn" (pulled) from some other source.

The sentence could be corrected by replacing "draws" with a different metaphor. This should identify a force pushing the US to utter (speak) them. For examples:

The US objections are inspired by its eagerness to export...

Here the eagerness breathes life into the objections. Or:

The US objections are motivated by its eagerness to export...

Here the eagerness is behind the objections pushing them.

But objections cannot be drawn from eagerness. They are drawn from some pool of ideas. Here is a correct use of the "draw" metaphor:

The US objections are drawn from the writings of a Harvard professor.

Here the ideas and arguments are pulled out of the professor's books, so it is appropriate to say "draw".

As other have pointed out there is a second anomaly: the verb "draw" is used intransitively. In standard English it would be:

The US objections are drawn...

The one who pulls draws. The thing pulled is drawn. The horses draw, the sleigh is drawn.

This anomalous intransitive use is part of a general trend in English to use more and more verbs intransitively. Sometimes when something is moved we speak as if it moves itself:

The store opens at nine o'clock.

The store does not open itself, but we speak as if it does. This has long been acceptable with certain verbs, but the list of verbs used this way has expanded considerably over the last few decades. Some examples:

Your order ships on Friday. (Your order will be shipped on Friday.)

When does the ship launch? (When will the ship be launched?)


This is the middle voice, where a verb is in an active and intransitive form but actually has a passive and transitive meaning. See Wikipedia, which says

In English there is no verb form for the middle voice, though some uses may be classified by traditional grammarians as middle voice, ... [It] need not be reflexive, as in "my clothes soaked in detergent overnight".

What the sentence means is

U.S. objections are drawn in part ...

I couldn't find the exact meaning of draw here in any of the usual online dictionaries, but it's in the OED.

  1. a. fig. To take or obtain from a source.
    E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest (1876) This incidental hint may perhaps draw some indirect confirmation from the highest evidence of all.

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