Dictionaries say "a gift: a thing that you give to somebody, especially on a special occasion or to say thank you"

I am not sure if "a thing" here can be a non-material thing.

For example, "That day was my birthday and my dad took me to the amusement park as a gift"?

If we can not use "a gift", what other word can we use?

Note: I thought about "My dad took me to the amusement park as a reward"

However, that was my birthday and I expected to get a gift not a reward because a reward is used for something I did well like a good mark for example.

  • 1
    Have you ever heard of the phrase "the gift of knowledge"?
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 19, 2023 at 19:06
  • 3
    ''As a treat'', ''as a birthday present'' or ''he treated me to X''. ''Gift'' sounds a bit odd as it makes it sound like the trip was a material object which could be given by hand. Aug 20, 2023 at 11:50
  • @DKNguyen and even more popular (based on February saturation): gift of love?
    – mcalex
    Aug 20, 2023 at 18:49
  • To sum up the answers: money and your time are giveable, too.
    – RonJohn
    Aug 21, 2023 at 14:53

4 Answers 4


Yes, as a gift is idiomatic there. Compare:

They took us to the movies as a treat.

She put her hand on her forehead as a clue.

He ate some peanuts as a snack.

He washed their car as a gift.

The phrases beginning with as refer to the purpose or intention of the action spoken about. Another preposition you could use in such contexts is for: for a treat, for a clue, for a snack, for a gift.

  • I'm not sure I understand the peanut example. (I'm a native speaker, Maritimes.) Peanuts are a physical thing and a snack can be a physical thing (what you eat during a snack [meal]), so I'd break it down as "He ate a snack. The snack was peanuts."
    – wjandrea
    Aug 19, 2023 at 16:01
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    Secondly, "for a snack" is good but the other ones with "for" sound weird to me. I'd interpret "for" more like "in order to get", like, say, "She put her hand on her forehead [to signal that she wanted] a clue", "He washed their car [hoping they would give him] a gift", and, a little more loosely, "They took us to the movies [the movie theater] [in order to get] a treat" (like popcorn).
    – wjandrea
    Aug 19, 2023 at 16:05
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    @wjandrea: snack can be understood as a purpose. He ate some peanuts as a pick-me-up. It's how you understand snack. Aug 19, 2023 at 18:59
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    The physicality of the thing is a red-herring grammar-wise, but semantically it would have bearing. She uttered a curse as a snack wouldn't work because there's no way to understand cursing as snacking, but The wrestler was only six ounces away from the required weight, so he imagined a piece of cake for a snack would work. Aug 19, 2023 at 19:26
  • 1
    He was owed more than $100,000 which he planned to use for a down-payment on a house. Aug 19, 2023 at 19:44

Absolutely! There is nothing that stops somebody from describing an experience (like taking you to an Amusement Park) as a "gift" in English.

  • Yes, exactly. As a native speaker seeing the title of the question, my first thoughts were "of course!" "absolutely". I have heard it used this way (non material) enough that I had never though of there being a distinction, and would actually find it a little odd if someone insisted on that distinction between material and non-material. Many times, the best gifts are the non-material ones!
    – Azendale
    Aug 20, 2023 at 15:00
  • But, as @Hollis Williams says, as a treat would be more idiomatic, at least in British English. Aug 21, 2023 at 10:20
  • But as a Native English speaker, it's fine.
    – JustACoder
    Aug 27, 2023 at 22:45

It's quite true that usually, gifts are physical things given. Note that gift and give are cognate (they have the same origin, so they're effectively the noun and verb versions of "the same" word). There's nothing syntactically incorrect about Dad gave me a trip to Disney World, though. (Except some people might assume he gave me a ticket, rather than actually took me there! :)

But I'd want to know what exactly is the reason1 for including as a gift in the sentence? Presumably it's not to clarify that Dad didn't ask me to pay for the trip. Consider also...

1: My dad let me stay up late to watch the game on TV as a gift

...which I suggest is even more "awkward" than OP's example. Reason being that in nearly all cases where I might wish to attach some kind of reason to such a "parental boon", that reason would effectively amount to a reward (for having done my homework, tidied my room, etc.), so...

2: My dad took me to the amusement park as a reward

...is fine if the context makes it clear what I did to merit being rewarded. Alternatively, if there's no obvious "activity / achievement + reward" combination in play,...

3: My dad took me to the amusement park as a favour

You can find more alternatives by googling synonym reward favour gift. One that might sometimes be more suitable, depending on the exact context, is...

indulgence Cambridge Dictionary
an occasion when you allow someone or yourself to have something enjoyable, especially more than is good for you

...where it might be that the highlighted element above amounts to more than is good for the family finances (i.e. the family can't easily afford the trip, but the child is going to be indulged anyway).

1 Noting the now-revised question text, it now seems pretty obvious OP's context would be best served by...

4: My dad took me to the amusement park as a [birthday] present

...where I suggest the "optional" element should normally be included unless preceding context has clearly established that the reason for the trip is it's a birthday present.

  • Now, that was my birthday and I expected to get a gift not a reward because a reward is used for something I did well like a good mark for example.
    – Tom
    Aug 19, 2023 at 12:09
  • 2
    You really should have included that in your original question. I could have written a much shorter answer - but I'm not going to delete all the irrelevant aspects now, as they might be useful to others in future. Aug 19, 2023 at 12:40
  • "That day was my birthday and my dad took me to the amusement park[.]" A querent might not even use the word either. What did your dad get (gift) you for your BD? - "He took me to an AP." - Everything costs money. This is implied. This is known. This is being a dad. See also, the intro to, Married With Children.
    – Mazura
    Aug 19, 2023 at 17:15
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    @Mazura: I kinda doubt any native Anglophone has said What did your dad gift you for your birthday? for at least a century! In fact, it's probably never been said before, because dad there is informal, but gift as a verb is poetic / dated / formal. Aug 19, 2023 at 17:43

A way to approach words that are ambiguous like this is to try them with different verbs and you will often find that there is a pattern to the usage. With your question, specifically, you're on the right track in that you know what the rule FEELS like, but just not how to explain it. A 'gift' can absolutely be non-material things (especially if you're my parents around my birthday) but it's the wording of the sentence that makes it feel wrong. A pattern you will see with words like 'gift' is that they tend to always have a "to be" verb with them (think 'I am', 'we were', 'she was', etc.). A way to reword your example sentence that would help it sound more colloquial would be "My dad's gift to me was a trip to the amusement park".

Great question. Hope that helps!

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