Definition of “owe” - English Dictionary

“owe” in English

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oweverb [ T ]

uk /əʊ/ us //

owe verb [ T ] (HAVE DEBTS)

B1 to need to pay or give something to someone because they have lent money to you, or in exchange for something they have done for you:

[ + two objects ] I owe Janet $50.
We still owe $1,000 on our car (= we still need to pay $1,000 before we own our car).
I owe you a drink for helping me move.
I think you owe (= should give) me an explanation/apology.
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(Definition of “owe” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“owe” in American English

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us //

owe verb (HAVE A DEBT)

[ I/T ] to have the responsibility to pay or give back something you have received from someone:

[ T ] Don’t forget – you owe me ten dollars.

owe verb (BE GRATEFUL)

[ T ] to be grateful to someone or something because of what the person or thing provided or made possible:

I owe a lot to my parents, who have always supported and encouraged me.

(Definition of “owe” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

“owe” in Business English

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oweverb [ T ]

uk /əʊ/ us

FINANCE, COMMERCE to need to pay or give something to someone because they have lent money to you:

owe sb $5/$500, etc. I owe you £200.
How much do we owe the bank?
He claims the firm owes him money.
owe $5/$500, etc. to sb The company owes $618 million to its creditors.
owe $100/$1000, etc. on sth We still owe $1000 on our car.
owe $100/$1000, etc. in sth The government alleges that he owes $54 million in unpaid taxes.

to have had someone help you or do something good for you, so that you should do something similar for them:

He owes you a favor for helping him with the project.
owe sb (one) Thanks - I owe you one!

(Definition of “owe” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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I would stress the need for effective monitoring both of recipients, and of altruistic and voluntary donors, to whom the public cannot fail to owe a debt of gratitude.
I would like you to know that you have our full and unequivocal support, and that we owe you a debt of gratitude.
We owe it to them.
We owe these former colonies.
The profession must be compensated, as must the citizens to whom we owe protection from misleading information and speculation and planned support.
You owe us some explanations!
We owe him our thanks.
The directive does not take into account the final outcome of the relevant legislative process, which will owe more to differences in legal technicalities than to substantive issues.
We owe it to the small organisations.
The work that has been done in the committee and the fact that we are standing where we are today owe a very great deal to him.