Could you tell me if there is any difference in meaning and usage between the phrase take someone's word for it and take someone at their word? For example:

Sara told me that she would keep her promise. I had no choice but to take her word for it.

Sara told me that she would keep her promise. I had no choice but to take her at her word.

  • No, I don't think there is any difference. Nov 16, 2020 at 13:34
  • In that particular case, there is a difference. Take someone's word for X means believe X because someone has sworn to it. In this case, X is her promise. In other words, this is a promise about a promise. How trustworthy is that? By the way, the idiom is have no choice but to. Not not choice; negatives are so fussy. Nov 16, 2020 at 18:45
  • Sworn? An oath? Nov 16, 2020 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


Some dictionaries state that the two expressions have the same meaning, but there are some situations where you would use one but not the other. According to Cambridge Dictionary (and I am aware of this nuance in everyday life) to take someone's word for something means:

to believe that what someone is saying is true

When my son said he did not break the neighbour's window, I took his word for it.

There is often the nuance that someone believed someone else without checking; it does not always imply implicit belief.

Take someone's word for it

However to take someone at their word means (my emphasis):

to believe (someone) without question and act according to their words

When my boss said it was time to change the furniture in the office, I took her at her word and ordered new desks and chairs.

Take someone at his word

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