The Difference between a Thief and a Robber

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The difference between a thief and a robber


We usually say “thief” if the act of stealing is done secretly so the victim does not see the thief.


We usually say “robber” if the criminal confronts the victim and is violent or armed and not afraid to be seen.

Children Sometimes Steal Things

Children sometimes steal things like candy.

Did you steal candy as a child?

Did you feel ashamed after you did it?

Link to a conversation with a child

Criminals – thief, robber, burglar

Thieves, robbers and burglars are people.

They are people and they are criminals.

Crimes – stealing, robbery, burglary

Stealing, robbery and burglary are acts.

They are illegal acts which means they are crimes.

Relative Clause – something which belongs to somebody else

Stealing is the act of taking something which belongs to someone else.

Robbery is the act of taking something which belongs to somebody else by using force or a threat.

Burglary is the act of taking something which belongs to somebody else from their house at night while they are asleep or away.

Note that we can say “somebody” or “someone”. These two words are exactly the same.

Crimes and Criminals and Acts

Look at these word relationships:

crime – criminal – to commit a crime
stealing – thief – to steal something
robbery – robber – to rob someone
burglary – burglar – to burgle a house

In each case we see the act (crime or action, which is a noun) then the person (the perpetrator or actor, which is a noun) then the verb which describes that action.

People and Places

Note that can rob a person or a place but you cannot rob a thing. For example we say:

He robbed the bank.

He robbed me.

We never say: “He robbed my wallet.” We say:

He stole my wallet.


He robbed me of my wallet.

“Burgle” is similar. It is used for a place. We say:

He burgled my house.


My house was burgled.

We do not generally say: “He burgled me” or “He burgled my wallet. We say:

He robbed me.
He stole my wallet.

Reporting a Theft or Robbery

When we report a theft or robbery we have to tell what happened. That means we have to speak or write a description of the events of the crime.

Have you ever been robbed?
Have you ever had your wallet stolen?
Have you ever been burgled?

Note “Have you ever been burgled?” means “Has your house been burgled?”

Links to More Lessons

Read about Passive Voice here: Passive Voice

Link to more Vocabulary lessons: Here

Reporting a Crime

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