Once one Englishman said me ‘to engage’ means – ‘get into contact’ in any its meanings and after that I began using it easier. Unfortunately dictionaries give dozens meanings for a word and learners get stuck to memorize a lot of different meanings for one word. In this system could you say what is the core, 1-3 main meanings for ‘to put’.

  • Most dictionaries give the core meanings first. So unless you have a historical dictionary such as the full OED, or a badly edited dictionary, this is just the first three definitions of put from the dictionary.
    – James K
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 6:26

1 Answer 1


The primary meaning of put is "to move into a certain position".

He got home and immediately put his wallet and his keys on the small table by the door, where he wouldn't forget them.

As with "get" there are many phrasal verbs and idioms that use put, but (to some extent) all rely on this basic underlying meaning. For example:

As the clock struck nine, the children obediently put away their toys and took out their schoolbooks

Put away means "place an object in its proper location", or "place into storage".

At the meeting, the young manager put forth a bold plan to reorganize the production line, in a way that he said would increase efficiency by twenty percent.

Put forth means to "offer for consideration". Figuratively, the image is like placing some object in front of the intended recipient.

Arthur wouldn't stop putting down his boss, saying he was completely incompetent and didn't deserve the job.

This meaning of put down is to "belittle", "criticize", or "humiliate". Figuratively it is like placing that person in a lower or reduced position, so that you can "look down" on them.

And many other phrasal verbs and idioms. Of course, there may be a few expressions where the connection to "place" is more tenuous -- such as put up with -- but for the most part this should be a good guide.

  • put on the milk, put on a look of concern, put on display, put on an act, put on an accent, put on hazard etc All they are very figurative and cause difficulties to understand.
    – Vitaly
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 12:01
  • @Vitaly Not really. All are related to what I said, "to place something into position", either on the stove, on one's face, out for people to see, etc.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 15:17

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