“Own vs belong to” should not be understood as a clash of meanings, but rather as two verbs that mean the same but are used differently.
You might’ve already read some similar posts, like the ones on “keen on vs appeal to” or “borrow vs lend“. These two verbs have the exact same difference: if we switch the verbs, we must switch the subject and the object. This is so because the meaning involves a change of subject. Let’s take a look at their definitions:
Own (v.): possess, have something as one’s own.
Belong (v.): be property of.
Now, let’s take a look at the following sentences with “own”:
Do you own this mobile phone? (more naturally said = Is this mobile phone yours?)
I’m surprised to hear that John owns this mansion.
And now look at how we can transform them using “belong to”:
Does this mobile phone belong to you?
I’m surprised to hear that this mansion belongs to John.
So now, when talking about possession, we can use different structures to make our English richer. Note how the person who possesses “this car” changes within the sentence.
This car is mine. (mine = possessive pronoun)
This car belongs to me. (me = object pronoun)
I own this car. (I = subject pronoun)
I am the owner of this car. (I = subject pronoun, owner = the person who owns)
This type of change is not unheard of in sentence transformation exercises. Check out the examples below:
Does Mary own any of the cars?
Do any of the cars _________________ Mary?
If the house belongs to Peter, I’m never going there again.
If Peter ___________________ house, I’m never going there again.
If you’re the owner of all these items, you should take them with you.
You shouldn’t take any of these items with you unless they _____________________________.
*Answers at the end!
And don’t you ever forget to Keep Smiling! 🙂
*Answer Preliminary: belong to
*Answer First: is the owner of the
*Answer Advanced: (all) belong to you