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Beg vs. Plead: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
To beg is to ask for something earnestly or humbly, while to plead is to make an urgent, emotional appeal or formally respond to charges in court.

Key Differences

Begging implies a sense of humility and urgency, often associated with a need or a favor, and can indicate a position of lower status. Pleading, while also earnest, often carries a more formal or legal connotation, as in pleading a case.
When someone begs, they may be perceived as desperate or without leverage, asking for help or resources. Pleading, especially in a legal sense, involves arguing a position or case in hopes of a favorable verdict.
Begging can be for material needs, like money or food, and often conveys a sense of dire need. Pleading is not limited to material things but includes emotional appeals or formal statements before an authority.
In begging, there's often an implied power imbalance, where the one who begs is at the mercy of the one who gives. In pleading, particularly in law, there's an attempt to persuade based on facts, rights, or emotions.
To beg is generally less structured, a spontaneous request for compassion or aid. To plead can be structured, as in legal pleadings, or emotionally charged, aiming to elicit sympathy or action.

Comparison Chart


Humility, need
Urgency, formality


Personal, informal
Legal, emotional, formal

Implied Status

Lower, at the mercy of others
Arguing from a position of right


Often for material aid
Legal argument or emotional appeal


Spontaneous, earnest
Structured, persuasive

Beg and Plead Definitions


To ask for something earnestly or humbly.
He begged for another chance.


To argue a position passionately.
Activists pleaded for the rights of animals.


To ask for charity or alms.
The man begged on the street.


To make an urgent appeal.
He pleaded for help when he saw the approaching storm.


To make a humble entreaty.
They begged for the crowd's support.


To formally answer charges.
The defendant pleaded not guilty.


To implore desperately.
She begged for mercy during the trial.


To present a case in court.
The lawyer pleaded her client's case effectively.


To request earnestly.
I beg your pardon for the interruption.


To make a serious or emotional request.
She pleaded with them to stay.


To ask (someone) for something in an urgent or humble manner
Begged me for help.
Begged me to give him the phone number.


To appeal earnestly; beg
Plead for more time.


To ask for (something) in an urgent or humble manner
Beg someone's forgiveness.
Beg a favor.


To offer reasons for or against something; argue earnestly
Plead against a bill.


Is "to beg the question" a request?

No, it's a logical fallacy where a statement assumes the truth of what it's supposed to prove.

Can "beg" be used in formal situations?

It's less common as it implies desperation or humility.

Can one plead for something other than a legal favor?

Yes, you can plead for various urgent needs or causes.

Do all legal systems use the term "plead"?

Most do, but the context and process may vary.

Can "beg" be used without implying poverty?

Yes, it can simply mean to ask earnestly.

Can animals beg?

In a non-verbal sense, yes, often for food or attention.

Is "plead" always legal?

No, it can also refer to serious, urgent requests.

Does begging imply weakness?

It can, as it often comes from a lower-status position.

Is pleading more formal than begging?

Generally, yes, especially in legal contexts.

Is it correct to say "I beg to differ"?

Yes, it's a polite way to express disagreement.

What does "plead the fifth" mean?

It refers to the right to remain silent and not incriminate oneself in court.

Is begging for attention a proper use?

Yes, it can be used in that context informally.

Does "plead" imply an emotional appeal?

It can, depending on the context.

Can you beg in a dignified way?

The term itself implies a lack of dignity, but context matters.

Can "beg" be used in literature?

Yes, often to convey a character's desperation or humility.

Can companies plead in advertising?

They can use pleading language to create a sense of urgency.

What is a "plea bargain"?

It's a legal agreement to plead guilty for a lesser charge.

Can one beg for forgiveness?

Yes, it's a common use of the term.

Is "pleading" used in court?

Yes, it's a formal part of legal proceedings.

Does "plead" require a direct object?

Not always; one can simply plead without stating for what.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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