• Sentence:

I grew this idea apart (I'm not interested in some idea because I'm older now, therefore I consider some idea as inappropriate)

As far as I understand, the phrasal verb 'grow apart' usually used for defining some person as former friend only and then I came up with the idea to involve some different entity instead of friend

  • Question:

Can I use the phrasal verb 'grow apart' in this way; if the expression isn't correct could you please give some alternatives

  • I don't think you can. – ΥΣΕΡ26328 Jun 25 '17 at 11:01
  • 1
    I grew out of that idea or I outgrew that idea – Hanky Panky Jun 26 '17 at 8:10

Grow apart is ordinarily used of two or more entities:

We grew apart.

You could say that you grew apart from X and you would probably be understood; but apart from is ordinarily used to designate a 'location' (you did your "growing" at some distance from X) rather than a 'direction' (you became more and more distant from X).

The usual idiom, particularly with ideas, attitudes, behaviors and the like, is grow out of:

I grew out of my attachment to anarchism.

This usually implies some deprecation of X—you became more aware or more mature and realized that X was deficient.

A more common alternative to grow out of X is transitive outgrow:

I outgrew my attachment to anarchism.


You’re on the right track, but that sentence structure doesn’t work.

Although some phrasal verbs can be split, it doesn’t work in this case. The sentence needs to be rephrased to keep the phrasal verb intact. So, you could say:

I grew apart from this idea.

Here’s an example from a recent sports column:

As he grew into the eventual .. Player of the Year, Henderson also grew apart from the idea of playing in College Park [at the University of Maryland].


It's not a phrasal verb—or at least, to avoid precise, dispute-prone terminology in a topic where the distinctions are blurry, it doesn't work like pick up. The word apart works like the words in bold face in these sentences:

You look marvelous!1

The breakfast cereal grew soggy.

Jody feels blue.

The cat is on the mat.

In that moment, Bobby became a man.

Boldheart grasped his sword and ran towards the dragon, and at every step he took the monster became smaller and smaller and smaller, until at last, when Boldheart was quite near it and struck at it with his sword, the beast had become so tiny that he had not the heart to kill it.2

The terminology isn't important, but if you want a grammatical term for these, some people call them subject complements, because they name some attribute that the verb asserts of the subject. "Marvelous" describes you, "soggy" describes the breakfast cereal, "blue" describes Jody, etc. And when people grow apart, "apart" describes the people.*

Apart is a kind of condition: most literally, when two things are separated by some distance between them, they're apart. Being apart is the opposite of being together. To grow apart is to become separate. Since it takes two things to be separate, you either need a plural subject, like this:

Over the years, I and my wife grew apart.
Over the years, we grew apart. (That is, we became more and more separate.)

or a singular subject with something after apart that tells what it's apart from:

Over the years, I grew apart from my wife.

or a singular subject with a verb that, together with apart, means that the subject got divided into parts:

The radio-controlled mouse came apart when it crashed into the wall.

To really understand apart, see these excerpts:

The skyscraper rests on 1,200 great pine piles, some of them 40 ft. long, which were driven into the sand of the site. These piles are in rows, two feet apart, under the vertical columns which support the building.3 (That is, there is a distance of two feet between each row and the next row.)

Apart from cartoons, there is a growing and substantial demand by the American Press for all forms of humour.4 (That is, in addition to the demand for cartoons, separate from the demand for cartoons.)

One woman with long, fair, braided hair and a gown more rich than that of the others sat a little apart from the rest.5 (That is, she sat in a position separate from the rest of the people.)

I agree with StoneyB that the usual phrasings for your meaning are grow out of and outgrow (which is like a phrasal verb except that the preposition has been stuck to the verb, as it's done in Russian).

Sources, some slightly edited to shorten or modernize them:

1Billy Crystal / Fernando Lamas.

2"The Magic Flute: A Story for Children" by Amy F. Cackett. The Strand Magazine, Vol. xxii, No. 129, October 1901, p. 349.

3"Building a Skyscraper" by Ray Stannard Baker. The Strand Magazine, Vol. xix, No. 112, April 1900, p. 381.

4"The Humorous Artists of America" by Thomas E. Curtis. The Strand Magazine, Vol. xxiii, No. 135, March 1902, p. 310.

5"The Mutiny on the 'Potemkin'" by A. Kovalenko. The Strand Magazine, Vol. xxx, No. 180, January 1906, p. 617.

*Some people say that "on the mat" is not a subject complement but an adverbial phrase (or something else). This is why the terminology is not important. The important thing I'm pointing out is that in "We grew apart", "apart" describes "we".

  • 1
    I disagree that it's not a phrasal verb. I don't think you can understand to grow apart (to become emotionally or mentally distant) by understanding to grow and apart separately. – CJ Dennis Jun 26 '17 at 0:16
  • @CJDennis Compare "grow soggy", "grow tiresome", "grow old", "drift apart", "keep apart", "wash apart", "grow slowly apart", "grow a little apart", "be physically together but emotionally apart". For a real phrasal verb, compare "pick" and "pick up". "Pick an air conditioner" and "pick up an air conditioner" mean very different things. I think the difference between single-word verbs and multi-word verbs is not as clear-cut as it's usually made to seem—and as my opening sentence makes it seem—but there is a difference here. – Ben Kovitz Jun 26 '17 at 4:20
  • grow soggy, etc. can be understood from to grow (to become) and soggy, etc. apart doesn't have the meaning of "emotionally distant" without grow. – CJ Dennis Jun 26 '17 at 4:27
  • @CJDennis Indeed there is a way in which "grow apart" is understood as a phrase with a narrower meaning than the words out of context would suggest, like "imagine that!", "walk tall", "eat dust", "pound sand", "ride high", "break bread", “feel blue”, “pass the buck”, ”bike a century", etc. But that's not what is normally meant by "phrasal verb". The same thing occurs ㏌ languages that "don't have phrasal verbs". Notice that you described the meaning of "apart" in this context. ”Grow apart" suggests one sense of "apart" but "pick up an air conditioner" doesn't suggest a specific sense of "up". … – Ben Kovitz Jun 26 '17 at 6:16
  • 1
    I certainly agree that this particular example is not as clear cut as other phrasal verbs. However, I believe it works more like a phrasal verb than not like a phrasal verb. – CJ Dennis Jun 26 '17 at 6:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.