How Theft Is Different From Robbery

When talking about criminal offenses, many people mistakenly use the term “robbery” interchangeably with “theft.” For example, a person might say, “Someone robbed that retail store,” when what they really mean is that someone stole something from it.

Robbery and retail theft have elements in common. Nevertheless, as Reader’s Digest explains, they are two different offenses, and using the two terms interchangeably is not accurate.


Theft is a property crime that involves one person taking assets that belong to someone else. The intent is to deprive the rightful owner of his or her property, and the person who takes the property typically uses it for his or her own benefit.

Theft is nonconfrontational and nonviolent in nature. The severity of the offense typically depends on the value of the property taken.


A robbery also involves taking someone else’s property, but this time through violent means. A person who commits a robbery may either harm the other person to take his or her goods or threaten harm to the other person unless he or she gives up the property. Robbery can involve the use of a weapon, but it does not have to.

A robbery can take place at a store if a person took assets unlawfully after threatening harm to the store’s owners or employees to ensure their compliance. However, if someone merely took something from the store unlawfully without any violence or threat, that is not a robbery, though it is still a theft.

The severity of robbery charges can vary based on the circumstances, but because it is a violent crime, the charges may be more severe than theft charges.