American English

Definition of owe verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (not used in the progressive tenses)Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they owe
    he / she / it owes
    past simple owed
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  1. 1to have to pay someone for something that you have already received or return money that you have borrowed owe somebody something She still owes her father $3,000. (figurative) I'm still owed three days' vacation. owe somebody something for something How much do I owe you for the groceries? owe something (to somebody) (for something) She still owes $3,000 to her father. The country owes billions of dollars to foreign creditors.
  2. 2to feel that you ought to do something for someone or give them something, especially because they have done something for you owe something to somebody I owe a debt of gratitude to all my family. You owe it to your staff to be honest with them. owe somebody something You owe me a favor! Thanks for sticking up for me—Iowe you one (= I owe you a favor). I think you owe us an explanation. I think we're owed an apology. The passive is not used in this meaning except with a person as the subject:An apology is owed to us.
  3. 3to exist or be successful because of the help or influence of someone or something owe something to somebody/something He owes his success to hard work. The play owes much to French tragedy. I owe everything to him. owe somebody something I owe him everything. I knew that I owed the surgeon my life.
  4. 4owe allegiance/loyalty/obedience (to somebody) (formal) to have to obey or be loyal to someone who is in a position of authority or power All serfs owed allegiance to a lord.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: owe