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In "Man vs Wild", Bear Grylls says:

I am 15 feet out.

Actually he made a makeshift ladder to get down the waterfall safely. I know what this means. But for using it properly I looked up this usage, but it was about "money". Like:

I am $25 out.

But is the use of "out" natural in the sentence used? And can you give me a few examples using "out" in this manner?

  • I'm sorry but that context is really quite poor. – Lambie Mar 7 at 15:15
  • "I am 15 feet out" means "I am 15 feet away from my goal"; this is unrelated to the money usage, which normally would reverse the word order: "I am out $25." – Robusto Mar 7 at 15:25
  • @Lambie, is the English used quite poor? Or is it not clear? – It's about English Mar 7 at 15:30
  • What is not clear is the the Bear Grylls citation. – Lambie Mar 7 at 15:36
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    "Context" means describing the situation in which something is said, often quoting several sentences prior to the one under consideration, and possibly a few sentences afterwards. Presumably, he was 15 feet away from something. It would help to know what that something was, and what significance the location 15 feet away had. – Acccumulation Mar 7 at 15:46
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The usage to be [some amount of money] out is a (significantly less common) alternative to colloquial to be [some amount] down.

down (Cambridge Dictionary)
in or towards a lower level, a smaller amount, or a simpler state
Ex. The Cavaliers were 20 points down (= losing by 20 points) at half-time.

But it's worth pointing out that the down version is also used for other "quantifiable values" (often, but not always, in contexts where lower = worse, higher = better).

It's also worth noting that the out version is almost exclusively reserved for contexts where the "amount" is either money or something that can easily be seen as having a monetary value. Also, that it nearly always implies a money / value that the subject previously had, and has now lost.


Another usage difference is that Bear Grylls would have been extremely unlikely to say I am out 15 feet (in the more "literal" sense of out = away [from some initial starting position.

But for the out = without [having lost something] sense, the sequence I'm out £10 is far more common than I'm £10 out - whereas I'm down £10 and I'm £10 down are equally common alternatives.

  • So you mean that it's more common to say: "I'm $25 down" than "I'm out $25"? – It's about English Mar 7 at 15:35
  • Yes - although as noted by my edit just now, I'm $25 down and I'm down $25 are equally "natural". But I'm $25 out isn't at all likely (it strikes me as rather "odd"), whereas I'm out $25 is simply a less common expression (nothing actually "wrong" with it). – FumbleFingers Mar 7 at 15:43
  • Fingers, is it natural to use "get down" with waterfall? Or should it be: "climb down" or maybe something else.... – It's about English Mar 7 at 15:53
  • You simply don't deal with the out. Down is another meaning. – Lambie Mar 7 at 16:16
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    @It'saboutEnglish - Most people don't climb down waterfalls, so it's hard to say what's "natural." I would probably say something like, "I am 100 feet down. I have 15 feet to go." But there is nothing wrong with what Bear Grylls said. (Besides, who wants to argue with Bear Grylls? Especially about grammar.) – J.R. Mar 7 at 16:37
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To be out some amount of money means: to be out of pocket some amount of money. To have spent some amount on something. Often, the full expression would be: to be out [of pocket] [amount].

To be out some distance means: to still have to cover some distance before reaching an end point.

  • Have you arrived yet? [a person asks another on a cell phone]
  • No, we are still 15 miles out. [we still have 15 miles to go]

  • How far have you gone? [one person asks another on a cell phone]

  • We are 15 miles out. [We have gone 15 miles from some original point]

It is used when communicating with someone, say, over a radio, telephone, etc. about reaching a destination. It can also mean to have traveled a certain distance as well. So, really, a specific context is needed.

Summary: out from x, can be how far you have traveled or how far you still have to go. In that sense, Fumble Fingers is right.

Those are both idiomatic. Both are used very commonly in English.

  • So what can be a better way to describe the context? I mean what can I use to describe "climbing down" a waterfall, can't "get down" be used? – It's about English Mar 7 at 15:38
  • @It'saboutEnglish You need to provide the link to the text. I don't even know who that is. But I understand the sentence. I have given you the idiomatic usage for both. – Lambie Mar 7 at 15:41
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    @FumbleFingers Well, my example is completely idiomatic. To be out [25 miles] means: we still have 25 miles to cover before getting to [some place]. A pilot might say that: "We're 100 miles out. Over." to a radio tower. – Lambie Mar 7 at 16:00
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    As given in my example, when communicating with another person, it is about distance to destination OR distance traveled from some point.It can be either, depending on context. – Lambie Mar 7 at 16:06
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    @FumbleFingers out can be either. It depends on context. – Lambie Mar 7 at 17:40

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