I love style manuals. Ever since I was assigned Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style in an introductory psychology course, the writing guide has been among my favorite literary genres. Source

I am thinking over the exact meaning of "I was assigned" in my sentence. Although I checked out the dictionaries, none of the possible meanings does not make much sense. The one and only alternative that I find as being suitable is the meaning "to give out as a task". So the author says that at the university – maybe within a seminar – he had to deal with the textbook on style. Am I right?

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    That sounds exactly right. To be “assigned a book” is to be given the task of reading it in a course.
    – lynn
    Feb 13, 2016 at 23:35
  • 1
    +1 to Lynn. We were given our reading assignment for the week: the teacher assigned us the first three chapters of the biology textbook. Passive: we were assigned the first three chapters...
    – TimR
    Feb 14, 2016 at 13:19
  • The verb assigned here means assigned to read. It's a common usage in academia. Evidently, Strunk and White was a required book for the course.
    – J.R.
    Feb 14, 2016 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


"The Elements of Style" is a book by Strunk & White.

The verb assign is used in many senses. Speaking in the context, it has two senses as follows:

  1. To give or allot someone something to use.

  2. To give someone a job or task as part of their duty or course of study.

As the book was given to you to study in your introductory course, it's most probably a task given as part of your studies. So the sentence means as follows:

Ever since I was given the task of reading/studying Strunk & White's book "The Elements of Style" in an introductory psychological course, ......

  • 1
    Does a teacher provide a student with homework to use? I don't think your post answers the question. To provide has multiple meanings and I don't think it works for to assgn.
    – user24743
    Feb 14, 2016 at 9:12
  • Rathony, There's no mention of homework. Nor did i say that a teacher provided a student with homework to use. Your teacher may give you a book to read and learn from it. I don't think he gave a job, duty, task. or homework to do. He gave him the book so that he can simply read and learn from it.
    – Khan
    Feb 14, 2016 at 12:58
  • You don't seem to understand what to assign means. There is no connotation that the book is given by anybody. It is what you have to read and understand in order to pass the course. That is an assignment.
    – user24743
    Feb 14, 2016 at 13:05
  • Merriam Webster states assign also means to provide someone with something. Th eacher assigned us different books to read. I think there's nothing wrong with this sentences.
    – Khan
    Feb 14, 2016 at 13:08
  • You used the verb to use, not read.
    – user24743
    Feb 14, 2016 at 13:09

The verb to assign is usually used by your boss (senior) at work or your teacher (professor) at school (university). It means

to give someone a particular job or duty : to require someone to do a particular task

When something is assigned to you, you usually have to read and write (often times analyze) something to satisfy expectation of those who assigned something. If you fails to do that, you will get various measures such as a failing grade, lower grade and demotion, etc. as a consequence.

You can rephrase the sentence to:

Ever since Professor A gave me an assignment (homework) to read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style in an introductory psychology course...

[Merriam-Webster, Wiktionary]

  • Maybe, assigned means given in your sentence, if you are looking for the meaning of your sentence. The word "assign"is usually used in passive form. Feb 14, 2016 at 3:11
  • @Idon'tknowwhoIam. Where did I say the verb to assign is usually used in what form? Can you explain the difference in this Ngram Viewer?
    – user24743
    Feb 14, 2016 at 3:33
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    Learners reading this answer should know that assignor is a rare word in day-to-day contexts. It would be more natural to say, "...to meet the expectations of the person who assigned you the work" (or, to just use that person's job title, e.g., "...of your teacher" or "of your boss").
    – J.R.
    Feb 14, 2016 at 21:25

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