'Dispose Something' or 'Dispose of Something'? What Is the Difference? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 29 June 2023)

Dispose Something vs Dispose of Something: Understanding the Difference

Dispose something and dispose of something are two expressions that are often confused. This blog post will clarify the difference between them and provide you with plenty of examples to help you avoid mixing them up.

What Does Dispose Something Mean?

Dispose something means 'to arrange something in a particular way'. This usage is uncommon, though it is still sometimes found in formal writing or speech:

✅ The host disposed the chairs around the table.

✅ The statues are disposed around the gallery.

✅ The vase was disposed on a nightstand nearby.

In casual conversation or writing, people are far more likely to use simpler verbs like arrange or put instead.

The entry for the verb dispose in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

What Does Dispose of Something Mean?

The phrasal verb dispose of means 'to get rid of' or 'throw away' something that is no longer needed or wanted. This phrasal verb is commonly used in formal writing or speech. When using dispose with this meaning, always use of after it:

Please dispose of hazardous waste thoughtfully. 
Please dispose hazardous waste thoughtfully.

✅ One way to dispose of unwanted furniture is to take it to your local recycling centre.
❌ One way to dispose unwanted furniture is to take it to your local recycling centre.

✅ Each year it costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to dispose of construction waste in our landfills.
Each year it costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to dispose construction waste in our landfills.

In everyday conversation, however, people are more likely to say get rid of or throw away to describe the act of discarding something.

The entry for the phrasal verb dispose of in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

In summary, dispose of something is the correct phrase to use when you mean 'to get rid of something'. It is formal and still in common use. Dispose something is rarely used in everyday English and means 'arranging something in a particular way'. It is important to use the correct phrase depending on the context in which it is being used.

Examples from the Media

Pharmacies, hospitals and law enforcement agencies are stepping up to provide safe, convenient ways to dispose of old medication. The Washington Post (2022)

Find a nearby Orange Drop site to take your hazardous waste and its container, where it will be safely recycled or otherwise disposed of. —Toronto Star (2011)

The likes of fridges, freezers and dishwashers have many recoverable materials, but also many hazardous materials that need to be disposed of correctly. The Sydney Morning Herald (2023)

Year 12 pupil Rebecca Swain from inner west Sydney's Newtown High has catalogued sixteen inventive ways of how to dispose of your used notes. —Daily Mail (2015)

But then some people linger, for far longer than the few sorry objects disposed around the main gallery space appear to warrant. The Guardian (2004)

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. Disposing of waste means 'getting rid of waste'. In this meaning of the word dispose, you must use of after it.
2. It is the offender who will be prosecuted and not the disposal of waste.

1. To dispose of something is to get rid of it.
2. Garbage is an uncountable noun, so it should not be used in the plural form.

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