What is the difference between to forsake and to give up ?

I find the two following as right:

He has been given up.

He has been forsaken.

In which situation would you use one instead of the other.

  • I'm sure I've seen this question asked and answered either here or on ELU in the past month or so, but I can't find it. Aug 8, 2019 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


Forsake is quite literary, while give up is not. Also, forsake is a transitive verb, and give up can be both transitive and intransitive.

If you give up something, you stop doing something that you do regularly (e.g. to give up smoking/drinking alcohol/a job). We don't say "to give up somebody" because this phrasal verb is for activities, not people.

To forsake is to leave someone, or to stop helping or looking after them, when they still need you. So, the sentence "he has been forsaken" is correct. In other words, he has been left (by his friends, for example).

  • There is a famous song called Don't give me up that's confusing me.
    – stbr
    Aug 8, 2019 at 9:27
  • @stbr are you sure it's not "Don't give up on me"?
    – Enguroo
    Aug 8, 2019 at 9:30
  • Indeed you are right. So basically we can use give up for people if we add "on" between give and the pronoun ?
    – stbr
    Aug 8, 2019 at 9:34
  • @stbr yes, though the meaning is a bit different. Read about give up on here - collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/give-up-on
    – Enguroo
    Aug 8, 2019 at 9:35
  • Ok I see so if I got it right, when I say I give up on him I mean that I kind of lost hope and stop try but I don't forsake him aka I don't leave him alone (in poor conditions) ?
    – stbr
    Aug 8, 2019 at 9:39

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