I am preparing for CAE advanced, but I need to revise some aspects. By the way, I am filling in the right verb in use of english part 1.

This is the piece:

But closer inspection reveals a milky surface covered in enamel dots, which ______ about two thirds of light.

The choice is between put down, put out, cut down, cut out.

Could you please give me some useful hints about the correct use of this kind of phrasal verbs? I can't sincerely figure out the right meaning of these verbs, moreover it happens that often these verbs have the same meaning.

  • All of the "compound verbs" put down, put out, cut down, cut out have multiple meanings, and covering the full range would be Too Broad for an answer here. As regards the specific "multiple-choice answer" test presented here, the expected answer is cut out, which you could in principle have established from this dictionary definition: to stop something such as noise or light from reaching a place. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 15:23
  • They are not compound verbs, but (usually) verb+preposition, i.e. at word level they are two separate constituents. In, for example, "He finally backed down", "backed down", consists of a verb and a preposition without a complement. This is clearly the correct analysis since it's "backed" that takes the verbal inflections. There's no "back downed".
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 17:35
  • Do you have a problem with just these phrasal verbs or are you looking for advice on learning phrasal verbs in general? For a general question on learning phrasal verbs (i.e. how to learn them), you might try Language Learning Stack Exchange.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 18:58
  • Hi Jasper! Sorry for late answer, I am looking for learning phrasal verbs in a logical way... Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


These phrasal verbs have a lot of meanings. The meanings that I have selected are applicable to the current context.

Put down means "to place on the floor [or a surface]", so it can't be that.

Put out means "to extinguish", so this is a possibility.

Cut down means "to reduce". However, this would imply that the enamel dots reduce only two thirds of the light, and not the remaining third, which seems to be over-complicated.

Cut out means "to eliminate", and this seems to be promising. The enamel dots eliminate two thirds of the light.

So, we have a choice between "put out" and "cut out". However, "put out" is normally used (in this context) to mean extinguish a light (like a candle).

So I would choose "cut out" as the most promising candidate.

  • There are plenty more meanings besides the few you've chosen to list here. For example, put down = euthanise, write/record, demean/insult / etc., put out = inconvenience, etc. I really think the range is too broad to be covered by a single answer here. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 16:50
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers You're right. I'll add that as a proviso.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 16:54
  • Just a thought: If the enamel dots lit up, then the right choice would be "put out", but if they reduce light emitted from another source, then it would be "cut out."
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 18:28
  • @J.R. That would seem to be a little over-complicated for an English test.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 18:48
  • It's actually what I thought the answer was at first. Moreover, I don't think that meaning of "put out" is any more complicated than the meaning of "cut out" being tested.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 2:03

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