In dictionary I see hurl means throwing forcefully. But my question is whether the word hurl can be used in any context where you throw any object forcefully?
For example, consider the examples below.

1) John hurls a gun to Mike

2) Mike hurls a ball to John

3) Mike hurls John against the wall

4) Mike kicks John and it hurls John 5 feet away.

Are all these sentences valid with the word hurl to mean the "forceful throw" or is any of these wrong and hurl should be replaced with some other word and why?

  • 3
    I wouldn't hurl a gun at anyone, unless I was out of bullets and I was hoping to hit them in the head. And I'm very unlikely to use hurl with a kick, but I guess Mike pushes John with his leg and it hurls John five feet through the air might be acceptable.
    – J.R.
    May 7, 2013 at 9:30

2 Answers 2


The difference is in the implied purpose of the action.

Hurl is a verb used when talking about a somewhat haphazard or forceful throw, far more aggressive than the actual verb "throw". As @J.R. pointed out, the phrase involving giving a gun to someone is a perfect example of the difference here: you wouldn't hurl a gun to someone (i.e. in order to give it to them to use), you would throw or, better yet, toss it to them. These are far more gentle verbs, implying that you intended them to be able to catch the gun, or at least you didn't mean for it to injure them. However, you might hurl a gun at someone, as a last ditch attempt to wound them once you have no more ammunition and you need to get away. Notice the difference in preposition: to throw to someone is to give them the item, but to throw at them is generally to try and hit them with it.

Regarding your sample sentences:

1) John hurls a gun to Mike

No. John throws a gun to Mike.

2) Mike hurls a ball to John

No. John tosses a ball to John. (Throws would work fine as well.)

3) Mike hurls John against the wall

Yes. Mike is aggressively sending John toward the wall, with the intention to hit the wall with his body in order to injure him. This aggression make hurls a perfect word choice.

4) Mike kicks John and it hurls John 5 feet away.

Maybe. This feels a bit odd because usually you don't talk about a kick hurling someone/thing. If you were to change the actor from the kick to Mike, hurls makes more sense. E.g.,

"Mike kicks John, hurling him 5 feet through the air."

Here, Mike is the one doing the hurling, not his kick. There are probably was to phrase it so that the kick could do the hurling without sounding too awkward, but it would take mroe work. Something like,

"Mike gave John a powerful kick to the chest, a kick strong enough to hurl John 5 feet through the air."

  • 2
    in 1) and 2), if you change "to" to "at" then they are perfectly unremarkable examples of normal usage IMO.
    – horatio
    May 7, 2013 at 17:59
  • 1
    @horatio. Good call. "To" implies control because you're trying to (through throwing something) have the recipient receive it somehow. "At" implies that the recipient is a target, not meant to catch the thrown object. May 7, 2013 at 18:03
  • 1
    You could definitely "hurl a ball to someone." Think an outfielder hurling a laserbeam throw to first base.
    – Daniel
    May 7, 2013 at 21:49
  • @horatio,Kristina: True, but as Kristina pointed out, that pretty heavily changes the meaning of the sentence. May 8, 2013 at 12:24
  • 2
    The question says "in any context where you throw forcefully" but also asks about replacement of "hurl" for "throw" which is a different question. I feel that for an EL Learner, we should at least indicate some are being called "wrong" only if you fix the intended meaning to a specific thing.
    – horatio
    May 8, 2013 at 14:25

Not being a native speaker, I'd say that, basically, all sentences are OK to some extent.

Given from dictionaries you can hurl something or somebody, thus you can hurl a gun, a ball and John.

Hurling a ball is - according to Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) - quite common; hurling a gun, however, doesn't have any hits. The reason gives J.R. is his comment. Why should you hurl a gun? You rather hurl a grenade. But you can hurl a gun, if you want to.

You can hurl things through the window, at someone or down the stairs as the example on Merriam Webster's Learner's dictionary shows. So you can hurl things against the wall as well, and there are about 70 entries on COCA for this particular example.

Last but not least, you can also hurl things away.

Madame Alain grunted, fighting to break free of Miri's grip. Miri spun the woman about with a strength born of desperation and hurled her away. The woman staggered and landed hard on her rump. Carroll, Susan, 1952: The silver rose

So, basically the sentences are acceptable but you might consider rephrasing the sentences as J.R. suggests for the last example.

In respect to your examples the difference between hurl and throw is only1 the intensity of the throw, how forceful and violently you throw something. The verb throw, however, is still more broader in its meaning. Example: You throw dices but you don't hurl them (at least not regarding the intended meaning).

1 Ignoring the fact that hurl is not used as a noun.

  • +1, nevertheless I generally dislike stock phrases and I particularly dislike "last but not least", which, at least in Italy, is used by ignorant people who want to look as they were well-educated. Obviously I don't know if the same happens where you live.
    – user114
    May 7, 2013 at 13:06

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