If someone claimed a lost watch, is it necessarily true that he took it? Or did he simply ask for it? The word "claim" seems to have multiple definitions.

The police said John claimed the watch.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • You need to formulate that question better.
    – Kaique
    Dec 21, 2019 at 6:22
  • Please enlighten me.
    – Apollyon
    Dec 21, 2019 at 6:24

1 Answer 1


The word claim has three basic connotations. The first is to make an assertion of the truth of a statement:

[1] He claimed he saw a ghost

The second and third are declarations of ownership. Of these, the former states a demand of ownership based on right;

[2a] He claimed the watch was his because his father had bequeathed it to him.

the latter asserts both ownership and actual possession:

[2b] He landed on the island and claimed it for the King.

Without knowing more about the procedures for lost or stolen property, you can't tell whether your hypothetical visitor to the police was allowed to walk off with the watch (2b) or whether he had to be satisfied with merely filing a claim for it (2a).

  • Thank you. What dialect of English are you a native speaker of?
    – Apollyon
    Dec 21, 2019 at 8:50
  • @Apollyon American English, but no regional dialect as I've lived in various parts of the US. I try to answer questions here from the point of view of standard, written English. This is more formal than the vernacular that most people use in conversation.
    – user105719
    Dec 21, 2019 at 9:50
  • Aren't [1] and [2a] somewhat similar, way more than [2a] and [2b] are? Jan 13, 2020 at 22:41
  • @Baskakov_Dmitriy You're right in that [1] and [2a] are statements of actuality. [2a] and [2b] are statements of ownership. But I don't know how to measure "way more."
    – user105719
    Jan 15, 2020 at 7:09

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