I have a question about the usage of "take a stake" here:

Activist investor William Ackman has taken a roughly $2 billion stake in Zoetis Inc. and could push the animal-health company to sell itself to a large drug maker such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

The "take" in "taken a roughly $2 billion stake" seems to have same meaning as the "take" in "take a car", which is a informal version of "obtain a car." So, would substituting "obtained a roughly $2 billion stake" the for slightly informal "taken a roughly $2 billion stake" be better, at least in a honorable newspaper like WSJ?

3 Answers 3


I would think the author of this used 'take' to imply a use of force or effort. Maybe not literal physical force but beat out a competitor.

Simply 'obtaining' doesn't imply this. No implication of motive or tactics used without directly expressing it. In general, it has an overall mellow tone.

I obtained the documents. (could have been given/handed directly to me.)

I obtained the documents by stealing them from the desk. (expressing the effort)

I took the documents from the desk. (not necessarily stole them but implies more force or effort.)


It would not be better to use "obtain", because "to take a stake in" is a standard expression, especially used among specialists in business and finance.

Using "obtain" would be ok, but there is no objective basis for deeming it better.

  • Just to add to my defense as a general rule and add to your claim of regular expression: I would think it requires effort and tactics to be a specialist involved in high stakes thus making it a regular expression.
    – David
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 19:28
  • Bingo to your "business and finance" slant. This Ngram shows which expression is more prominent; these hits confirm your assertion about the domain where this is routine nomenclature.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 10:35

Agree with David and Jim Reynolds. "Obtain" would be perfectly valid here, but "take" is fine too. I don't see any reason to say "obtain" would be better. As David says, "take" indicates action on the part of the person getting the thing, while "obtain" is more neutral. If I beat someone up and steal his property, I have "taken" it. If he gives it to me as a present, I have "obtained" it, but I haven't "taken" it.

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