The first verse of the song Take Back The Instant by General Elektriks is the following:

Take back the instant

When you brushed him off your shirt

You tried to drag him to the trash

You tried to trade him in for cash

The lyrics as I understand them are about distribution of wealth, and how some people are born lucky and grow up to take everything for granted. The first verse is in line with that, but I don't understand the last line: what does trade somebody in mean?

My first thought was that it was a similar construct as "show somebody in", and so it meant invite somebody into a deal. Could the line be rewritten as "You tried to make a deal with him to extort his money"?

Source of the lyrics: genius.com


2 Answers 2


This is the phrasal verb to trade in.

It means, roughly, to exchange to a vendor for cash so that you can get something better or newer from the vendor. For example, Should I Trade my Old Car In or Sell it Privately?

So basically the lyrics mean "you tried to exchange him for cash (presumably so you could get something else)".


"To trade in" is often used in reference to vehicles, but can be used for any inanimate object that has a real value that could be used in bargaining for money, for the same or a similar item that is newer or better, or for something completely different.

For example, you have an older car, but you'd like something that is newer and/or in better condition, so you go to a car dealership. There, you pick out a car you'd like to buy and offer your old car as a trade-in so that you get some money to apply to the purchase of the car you want. Unfortunately, in reality, most car dealerships will overcharge (demand too much money) on the car you want, and pay you too little for your old car.

"Trade in" always means an exchange of something for goods or services. It's a form of bartering.

In the lyrics, using "You tried to trade him in for cash" demonstrates that the object of the lyrics, the man, is someone the other person no longer wants to have a relationship with. Clearly, from what you quoted, their relationship has become so bad that the other person looks at him as nothing more than an object to be sold off. Alternatively, the other person might normally behave this way, such as with a narcissist, who uses people and then ends their relationship when they become a burden.

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