Fearing for his life, he pleaded/begged the mugger for mercy.

Which verb is correct here and why?

As I looked up in the dictionary, I found both 'plead for mercy' and 'beg for mercy'. Therefore, I think both words have similar meaning.

  • Are you asking about which one is grammatical as written, or which one better fits the meaning of the sentence? – Nathan Tuggy Jun 26 '15 at 18:10

Fearing for his life, he pleaded/begged the mugger for mercy.

Begged is the correct term here grammatically. Although you can use both to convey the same meaning. For example:

Fearing for his life, he begged the mugger for mercy.


Fearing for his life, he pleaded with the mugger for mercy.

both convey the same meaning.


The difference is that some verbs allow a direct object and others don't.

beg allows direct objects

He begged the mugger for mercy.

plead just doesn't work with human direct objects these days. Note that "plead" has two past tense forms, "pleaded" and "pled.")

"Plead" works with things like

"He pled (or: pleaded) insanity/guilty/not guilty" in a legal context.

So "He pled/pleaded the mugger for mercy" doesn't work.


Fearing for his life, he pleaded to the mugger for mercy.

plead is the best choice based on the definition, plead:

2) to make an earnest appeal; supplicate; beg ⇒ "to plead for mercy"

In this situation "earnest appeal" certainly applies.
plead generally is used in negative situations, such as legal matters where you are defending your self or beliefs.

In the case of beg you can't find a similar definition:

transitive verb
1) to ask for as charity or as a gift ⇒ "he begged a dime"
2) to ask for earnestly as a kindness or favor
intransitive verb
3) to ask for alms; be a beggar
4) to ask humbly; entreat

beg is more of a favor for your benefit in a positive setting.
However in general usage probably both would come up.

  • "he pleaded the mugger...." is not idiomatic English. Pleaded does not take a direct object. – Adam Feb 24 '20 at 17:43
  • @Adam So it is. I edited my answer. Or perhaps "he pleaded for mercy from the mugger". – user3169 Feb 24 '20 at 18:36
  • @user3169 I am actually confused by your reply to Adam. "So it is" shows agreement, but Adam says that phrase is not idiomatic English. So are you agreeing with Adam or not? Your new edit seems to be based on Adam's suggestion. – Eddie Kal Feb 24 '20 at 18:45
  • @EddieKal Yes, I was agreeing with Adam. I meant "You are right." – user3169 Feb 25 '20 at 1:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.