We say: "Our collection of art is growing," and "Our
collection of art is increasing."
Also, we say: "With more money, we could increase
our collection," but it seems incorrect to say: "With
more money, I can grow my collection of art."
In current usage, the verb grow sometimes presents
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Houghton
Mifflin, 1996, p.801) lists seven entries under grow
as an intransitive verb (a verb that doesn抰 take a direct object).
The first is: "To increase in size by a natural process."
The second is: "To expand; gain" as in: "The business
grew under new management."
The first two sentences that Deborah sent"Our collection
of art is growing," and "Our collection of
art is increasing"show "grow"
as an intransitive verb. These two sentences certainly fit in perfectly
with the second meaning—to expand or gain. There is no problem
with using grow or increase interchangeably
when the verb has an intransitive meaning.
There is a problem, though, as Deborah senses, when grow
has a transitive meaning. Under transitive verbs (verbs that
take a direct object), this dictionary lists two uses of grow:
(1) to cause to grow, to raise, as in "grow tulips"; (2) to
allow something to develop or increase by a natural process, as in "grow
a beard." It is important to remember the word "natural"
The transitive verb grow isor has normally beenrestricted
in use to refer to nature or to living things or to parts of living
things. This restriction does not apply to the verb "increase"
as a transitive verb, which is defined simply "to make greater
or larger." There is no restriction to nature or living things
with the verb increase.
Addressing your question specifically, The New York Times Manual
of Style and Usage (Times Books/Random House, 1999, p. 149) gives
us a good guideline in this excerpt:
Grow can be used without a direct object in many contexts: flowers
grow; unemployment grows; businesses and governments grow. With
a direct object, grow sounds natural in references to living things: grow
flowers; grow wheat; grow a beard; grow antlers. The newer
usage of grow to mean expand (grow the business; grow revenue)
is business jargon, best resisted.
So, the sentence that Deborah finds
incorrect"With more money, I can grow my
collection of art"is indeed awkward; according to the description
in the New York Times style book because a collection of art
is not a thing of nature, not a living thing. It also doesn抰 fit The
American Heritage Dictionary抯 requirement for the transitive use
of growthat the direct object refer to something
in nature. However, the verb increase, as well as other
verbs such as expand, and augment,
have no such restriction, and thus we can comfortably use your sentence:
"With more money, we could increase our collection."
For a related article, go
to the message "Formerly instransitive