How to use "challenge" correctly

A mistake that English language learners often make is to misuse the word “challenge.” Let’s look at it in the context of running a race:

I’m going to challenge the race this weekend.

That sentence actually means you are going to argue with the race, not run it!

The meanings of the word “challenge” are outlined below, so read on to see the difference. It might be a challenge, but you can do it!

Challenge as a noun has a couple of meanings.

  1. Something hard to do. You might say, “I’m going to run a marathon next week. It’ll be a challenge, but I think I can do it.”
  2. A request for a contest, fight, race, etc... You might say, “My friend issued a challenge to anyone who wants to try beating him at a race. I’m not going to challenge him because I don’t think I could win.”

As a verb, it also has two different meanings.

  1. To say that something may not be true or correct. You might say, “When the officials disqualified me from the race, I challenged their decision. I'm sure I didn't break the rules!”
  2. To call someone to have a competition. You might say, “He challenged them to a race.”
    Note that you can challenge yourself if you are going to test your abilities and do something you haven't done before.

    So now that you know the difference, can you say the original sentence correctly? There's more than one right way—you have a couple of options that get the point across just as well.

    • "I'm going to run the race this weekend. It'll be a challenge!" or
    • "I'm challenging myself to run the race this weekend."

    Another verb you can use is "try", as in, "I'm going to try running the race," "I'll try to run the race," or "I'll give the race a try." However, all three of those have different nuances. Check back next week to see a blog post clearly outlining them for you.

    Here's a challenge for you: Choose one of the options for "challenge" above and write a few more sentences to complete the story. If you'd like, you can submit it as homework using this link or go over it with your next teacher.

    disqualified [adjective]— to say that someone is no longer allowed to be in office, or to do an activity or competition because they broke the rules.