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We often use the phrase "the hell out of" with some attacking or scaring action verbs, for example, "to scare/beat/surprise the hell out of him".

Can we use it with other kinds of verbs, for example, "to eat/bang/love/write/cut etc the hell out of it"?

For example,

"I ate the cake" vs "I ate the hell out of the cake"

"I banged the door" vs "I banged the hell out of the door"

"I wrote the book" vs "I wrote the hell out of the book"

"He loved her" vs "He loved the hell out of her"

"I cut the paper" vs "I cut the hell out of the paper"

"I played the guitar" vs "I played the hell out of the guitar"

etc

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well in general terms "yes"

However consider what you are trying to relay to the recipient of your sentence.

"I play a hell of a mean guitar"

is quite a more commonly used statement.

I would consider, "the hell out of" in associated with cake, cut and wrote are stretching things beyond reasonable limits. Whilst love? well it is more common to say "the hell out of" in the context of making love, rather than being in love.

I suppose what I am trying to say is the we can say/write lots of things and they can be understood and technically correct but if you did say things in such a way probably most people would consider you an idiot. You would certainly be in for a few strange looks.

"The hell out of" is more commonly use to denote strong or strenuous activity, as you already know from your post. It is very often associated with an unpleasant experience, hence the reference to hell.

He kicked the hell out of him.

He had the hell beat out of him.

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  • +1, though I don't quite agree with your second-to-last paragraph. I would certainly say "played the hell out of the guitar" (if the situation warranted it, e.g. a rock concert). I would be less likely to say "at the hell out of the cake" and very unlikely to say "wrote the hell out of the book." And I would definitely say "loved the hell out of [object]" without necessarily referring to making love.
    – randomhead
    Jun 13, 2021 at 4:06
  • @randomhead Yes unfortunately some of these answers drag you into an opinion based answer. Life shapes each of us differently so the boundaries, preferences and limits for each of us vary slightly in most cases and unfortunately greatly in other cases. I would not personally argue your point if it had been read the hell out of, but there you go that shows my preference. And with the guitar I agree with you I just pointed a out a more common use.
    – Brad
    Jun 13, 2021 at 4:20

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