I'm a French student and I don't understand the meaning of the particle "off" or "out" often used with verbs... Can anybody help me to understand their meaning?

For example "to phase out" or "live off"

Furthermore, I would like to ask you if this sentence is correct

I neither understand the particle "off" nor "out".

closed as too broad by FumbleFingers, Em., LMS, Nathan Tuggy, Glorfindel Jan 4 '17 at 22:19

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  • Both prepositions have a range of meanings according to the exact context. For example, I might say (1) He lives out his dreams or (2) He lives off his dreams. The first means he realises (makes a reality of) his dreams, but the second (somewhat less likely utterance) would probably be taken to mean he makes a living out of his dreams (perhaps as a successful fantasy writer). There's usually an element of "meaning" associated with the preposition, but it's not always clear-cut - especially when we're considering the specific pair out and off. – FumbleFingers Jan 4 '17 at 17:17
  • For example, a football manager deciding which players to field for an upcoming game could say I think I'll strike out [PlayerX] to mean I've decided that PlayerX will not be in the team. But he could have said I think I'll strike off [PlayerX], with exactly the same meaning (remove from a list). Plus there's striking out/off on a journey (beginning, taking the first steps), which are again interchangeable. But in many other cases there may be a huge difference (or one preposition may simply never be used in that context). In summary, the question is probably Too Broad. – FumbleFingers Jan 4 '17 at 17:25
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    This question is much too broad. It cannot be approached like this. Perhaps it is useful at this point for you (the OP) to learn the term: phrasal verb. – Lambie Jan 4 '17 at 18:15
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    Here is an introduction to phrasal verbs: dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2014/09/24/… In order to get more information using google, the term /phrasal verb/ is needed. – Lambie Jan 4 '17 at 18:22

I don't understand the meaning of the particle "off" or "out" often used with verbs

Off or out in some cases doesn't have a strong meaning in and of itself, but it exists to change the meaning of the main verb. These are called phrasal verbs.

It usually is possible to use the words with their original meaning as well.

Knock is a verb that has phrasal variations with out and off as an example:

To knock = To sharply and quickly tap something, e.g. with knuckles or a tool. You can do this to disloge something or to make a sound against something like a door.

To knock out = To lose consciousness, typically from a blow suffered during a fight. Can also mean to knock something in order to move it outward.

To knock off = To stop doing something, parents typically tell their children this. Can also mean to knock something in order to move it off of a surface.


I knocked the panel out of the cabinet = I sharply/quickly tapped the cabinet (with a hammer) to make it fall out.

John knocked out Fred in the fight = Fred lost consciousness because John struck a blow to him in the fight.

John knocked it out of the park (Common thing to say if John was playing baseball and struck a home run)

That stupid cat knocked the figurines off the shelf.

I told Sally to knock off the loud noise and she turned her stereo down.

  • Even if we limit ourselves to the specific "base" verb knock, this is a far from complete list. There's to knock off = to do something hastily, to kill, to steal, to have sex with, etc. All I can say is Knock yourself out (which can mean Enjoy yourself! as well as Apply yourself energetically (to the point of exhaustion). – FumbleFingers Jan 4 '17 at 19:36
  • @LawranceC Last time I looked, a phrasal verb is a verb + a preposition. Who said anything about a complete list??? – Lambie Jan 4 '17 at 21:04
  • It's not a preposition when it's used as part of a verb. Just like other words change their function based on usage, the same applies here. "To bed" someone is different than "a bed" - one is a verb, the other a noun. – NovaDev Jan 4 '17 at 23:23

Unfortunately the best way to handle verb-preposition pairs is to treat each one as a separate verb, with its own meaning, usage, nuance, etc. For example, the meaning of the verb "to get" changes greatly depending on which preposition is used with it:

I get a banana (obtain)

I get on the train (embark)

I get off the train. (disembark)

I get out of the house (exit)

I get over a cold (recover)

I get through the winter (endure)

I get in a cab (ride)

I get into my work (focus)

and various others. "Off" and "out" are similar -- the meaning is not completely consistent between one verb and another. For example:

go off (travel away)

leave off (omit, or stop)

see out (show to the exit)

go out (go outside, also date )

leave out (omit, or forget)

cookout (a meal eaten outdoors)

and so on.

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    At this point in the game for the OP, this is probably the best one can do. :) – Lambie Jan 4 '17 at 18:17

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