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enter image description here A child wanted to make his mom freak out by secretly putting a spider on Mom's shoes.

I had no experience of using the verb "sneak", so I just followed the dictionary

sneak: 2 TAKE/GIVE SECRETLY [transitive] to hide something and take it somewhere or give it to someone secretly

I snuck her a note.

sneak something through/past etc somebody/something

Douglas had sneaked his camera into the show.


So, we can "give something to someone secretly"

I am not sure if this sentence is common or idiomatic "He sneaked the spider on his mom's shoes to freak her out"?

Some suggest "He sneakily put the spider on his mom's shoes to freak her out".

But which one is more natural?

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First, the transitive use of "sneak" as "give secretly" does not usually convey the idea that the recipient is unaware of the gift.

Second, in my part of the US, "snuck" is more common than "sneaked." (The "sneaked" "snuck" dichotomy is in large part regional, but my impression is that "snuck" is particularly associated with the transitive use.)

So "sneaked a spider on his mom's shoe" does not sound natural to me. The "sneakily put" seems quite idiomatic

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  • Sneaking usually says the person would not intend to be caught. "I sneaked a peek at the book ending." Or "while visiting my math professor, I snuck a look at the midterm exam." And I agree with "snuck" over "sneaked" in most situations in the US based on living in 11 states.
    – JohnP
    Dec 31, 2020 at 14:45
  • @JohnP I agree that “sneak” usually implies a strong desire not to be detected, but the transitive use is complex. “The boy snuck her a note” implies that the boy did not want someone to know that he sent the note (her teacher, her boyfriend, or her parents), but it does not necessarily imply that the boy did not want the girl herself to know who sent the note. You raise a good point, but addressing that complexity did not seem to me to be needed to address the question asked. Dec 31, 2020 at 15:01

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