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Those phrases are pretty similar. I often hear people say "cut down on sugar/coffee/soda/ (anything related to food) ". But in other contexts, are those phrases interchangeable?

For example:

The country cut down on waste production last year.
The country cut down waste production last year.

Are both phrases correct in that sentence?

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    "Cut down on" means reduce the consumption of, and your first example is idiomatic. Cut down (without on) would be grammatically correct, but not idiomatic. Note that cut down also may refer to the physical act of cutting something down (most often trees.) – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 4 '16 at 5:26
  • We are always happy to help! – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 4 '16 at 6:27
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You definitely cut down trees, but "cut down waste production" doesn't sound right to me. You may simply "cut waste production" though...

"Cut down" something to me is literal: you are cutting something so that it falls over. "Cut down on" something is the idiom that you gave.

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