Sources tell CBC News the video statement is not even a minute long, but in that brief period Zehaf-Bibeau explains that he attacked Parliament to avenge Canadian forces being sent to Muslim lands. That presumably includes Afghanistan, and Canada's participation in the air strikes against Libya — the country where Zehaf-Bibeau's father was born.

(from Parliament Hill shooter Zehaf-Bibeau's cellphone manifesto barely a minute long, CBC News, March 5,2015)

Is this the right usage of the word avenge? I feel it should be revenge instead of avenge or to avenge Muslims on Canadian forces who struck their lands. Thank you.

  • 1
    Your cited text is correct (revenge can be, but normally isn't used transitively in that way). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 6 '15 at 21:25

Although you are right to doubt the usage, avenge is used appropriately in this excerpt. Whenever you see a word that seems to not make sense in the manner with which it is used, remember to check the part of speech of the questionable word and what you believe are alternatives

Avenge is a verb. Revenge is a noun (except when it is used in a literary context). As this is a news article, and is an example of expository writing (see "Rhetorical Modes"), the word to use to denote the action would be avenge.


"Zehaf-Bibeau sought revenge, by attacking Parliament, in order to avenge Canadian forces being sent to Muslim lands."

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  • Also, there is a sense of justice with avenge and a sense of punishment with revenge. If I avenge myself against someone, I'm setting right a wrong that was done to me. If I revenge myself on someone, I'm punishing them for some harm they caused me. – ColleenV Mar 7 '15 at 13:57
  • That is exactly right! When they are used in the literary context, this is how they are used. The subtle difference is the same as with "enemy" and "nemesis"- the latter includes a pursuit of justice for some wrongdoing. Batman and Penguin are mutual enemies, but Batman is also Penguin's nemesis. – Gary Mar 7 '15 at 14:29
  • I've learned that when you "avenge someone", that "someone" is not the person who caused some damage, but the victim of the harmful action. What I understand from the article is that the killer wanted to take revenge on Canadian forces who struck Muslim lands and in order to do that he attacked the Canadian Parliament. Am I wrongly understanding the article? – whitecap Mar 8 '15 at 18:18
  • I see what you mean, but avenge can also be for an act, not necessarily on behalf of someone. It seems like there are three "agents" in the excerpt (Parliament, Canadian forces, and Muslims), but there are only two: Parliament and Muslims (in their lands). The act/injury is "Canadian forces being sent". You could replace "…avenge Canadian forces being sent to Muslim lands." to "…avenge Parliament's policy to Muslim lands." Your comment does point to the nuances inherent in both words and the delicacy involved with their use – Gary Mar 9 '15 at 20:06

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