The 6th entry for away in MacMillan:

[usually progressive] used for showing that someone does something continuously or for a long time

Molly was at her desk working away as usual.

The children were all chattering away happily.

I think this definition is a restricted usage of away, and it has to collocate with a dynamic verb.

However, not all dynamic verbs can work in this way:

laugh away / jump away / hit away / dance away / ponder away / wave away / make away / push away / submit away / integrate away / explain away / warn away / protect away / help away / shoot away

I think verbs with the atelic aspect can always work with this definition of away, is it true? What about other aspects?

  • I think any of the verbs you mentioned can be used with away in the sense you are talking about, at least in informal context.
    – tunny
    Nov 16, 2014 at 15:10
  • possible duplicate of What do the stacked prepositions "away at" mean in this sentence? In all such cases, the "away" element implies one or more of continuously, repetitively, gradually. Nov 16, 2014 at 15:50
  • I beg to disagree. I think I'm asking it from a different perspective. Plz note that I have quoted the definition in the first place. @FumbleFingers
    – Kinzle B
    Nov 16, 2014 at 16:30
  • I'm not sure how useful it is for learners to study lexical aspects. (It might be, though I think it's unnecessary.) This question probably fits our Linguistics stack better. (To elaborate a bit, asking whether a verb in a specific sentence is telic or atelic could fit ELL, but asking if all atelic verbs (along with other aspects) always work with a specific meaning of away is probably better on our Linguistics stack.) Also, I think you probably are mixing up lexical aspects (dynamic with atelic), and grammatical aspects (e.g. progressive, which can be thought of as an imperfective aspect). Nov 16, 2014 at 17:10
  • It takes a pretty contrived context with some verbs (We couldn't survive without the ozone layer shielding us from hard radiation. Unrecognised until recently, it's been protecting away since humans first evolved). And some of OP's offerings (explain away, warn away) have well-established usages not involving this "continuous" sense, which can make it even harder to contrive a valid context for the usage under consideration. It takes some doing to get your head around It wasn't working [going?] at all yesterday, but it's been going away for hours today. Nov 17, 2014 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


He laughed for an hour.  He was laughing away for an hour. 

Ok, that's atelic, and this sense of "away" works with the continuous aspect. 

"I'm sorry.  I'm trying not to laugh." 
"It's ok.  I won't be offended.  ✓Laugh away.  ✓Laugh for an hour, if you must." 

It even seems to work in the imperative mode, no continuous aspect needed. 

I certainly can't test every verb with these models, but it looks like the relationship between "away" and "for an hour" should be consistent.  I suspect that atelic constructions without objects will work.

What if the atelic construction includes an object? 

✓He was pushing my buttons for an hour.  ✗He was pushing my buttons away for an hour.  ✗He was pushing away my buttons for an hour.  ✓He was pushing away for an hour. 

It looks like this sense of "away" isn't available when the construction includes a direct object. 

What about telic constructions?

✓It grew in an hour.  ✗It was growing in an hour.  ✗It grew away in an hour. 

I can't seem to find a telic construction in the continuous aspect.  I can't seem to find a telic construction that uses this sense of "away".  That could be evidence that such constructions don't exist, or it could merely be evidence that I personally don't have the skill to find them.  Either way, I can't find them. 


To go away means to remove oneself from somewhere. To make go away means to cause to be gone. These are common verb phrases in English.

Logically connected, when you say "X away", one of the meanings can be

  • there's an amount of something
  • X makes this amount of something go away or become less
  • this is, was, or will be occurring over time.

whittle away

fade away

ponder away

The thing you are "Xing away" can be anything as long as it makes sense with this meaning and verb.you're doing that over time.

I whittled away at the wall with my crowbar, and eventually tore down the wall.

Slowly the pain faded away.

I pondered away at the possibilities, but could not think of a reason why he would do that.

Of course, away can just mean "in a direction opposite," sometimes with "from here" implied.

take away

get away

jump away

kicked away

flew away

It can also mean "as much as you want" - informal, typically used imperatively in conversation:

A: I would like to help him. (B doesn't like the "him" and would be too glad to let A handle him)

B: Be my guest! Help away!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .