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I was wondering if it is correct to say "X is out" (for example, "milk is out"). I remember reading it somewhere, but I can't seem to find any examples now.

One example that comes to mind is "time is out", which seems like a valid expression.

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    You'd say "we're out of milk" and "time is up". Aug 18, 2016 at 12:57
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    If they say "milk is out", I'd guess they are from Germany or some other place where that expression in in the language.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 18, 2016 at 13:57
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    You'd actually usually say "Time's up" rather than "Time is up", now that I think about it again. Aug 18, 2016 at 15:26
  • "X is out" could be some kind of ellipsis for any of "X is out of the question", "X is (thereby) ruled out" or modeled after "X can be counted out". I couldn't find any references but have heard the construction used informally in contexts like "There is no beer, so beer's out" or "There is no money for a trip, so Paris is out".
    – traktor
    Aug 19, 2016 at 3:36

3 Answers 3

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Using googles corpus magic there is no indication that X is out is used that way. Generally the expression is out does not seem to be used in collocation with nouns that you can run out of. The only hit besides time (as mentioned in comments already) in the top 100 is item. Further investigation shows, that those occurences are (>90%) followed by of.

Furthermore, no dictionary definition of out covers that usage, which brings us to the next step of the question, we are not supposed to use it, but do we?

It doesn't seem to be the case. As this ngram shows there is no usage to be found in relevant numbers. Note that I divided out of gas by five and multiplied the milk/beer/gas is out lines by ten and they are still an order of magnitude apart.

Having a second look at milk/beer/gas is out also shows that those occurrences are not in the context the question refers to are also followed by of.


So there are no indication that it is used that way in English. I agree with GEdgar, that it is likely a lousy, literal translation from another language. In German it is very common to say "Die Milch ist aus", oder "Die Milch ist alle." Literally, "the milk is out" and "the milk is all", respectively.

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Case-by-case basis. "Time is out" is passable, though "Time is up" is better. "School is out" is correct but means something different than "There is no more school remaining." "Bell-bottoms and mullets are out" is also correct but doesn't mean we've run out of those items. Same with "Our parents are out" and plenty of other uses I'm sure. In general "X is out" is not the best way to state that there is no longer any remaining X.

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  • Welcome to ELU. This site strives to provide objective answers. Could you provide substantiation by objective sources for your answer. Have a look at the help center to find out about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Aug 18, 2016 at 14:18
  • Helmar is right. But this has the makings of a very informative answer (though the question would then need to be broadened as well as show signs of research). Aug 18, 2016 at 15:53
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It depends on what X is. With milk, one would say that he is "out of milk." With time, one would say something like "I'm out of time" or "Your time is up" or "He ran out of time."

Rather than "X is out", say "out of X" instead.

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