Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: eat

Type: Article

Don’t let phrasal verbs eat up all of your time with this article from Tim Bowen.

‘The danger is that rising inflation could eat away the economic gains of recent years.’ Here, the phrasal verb eat away means to destroy something gradually. This can also be something physical, as in ‘Storms and high tides have eaten away a stretch of the coastline’. 

If an activity or a cost eats into your time or money, it uses more of it than you intended, as in ‘These constant meetings are eating into my lunch break’ or ‘Pensioners are increasingly finding that rising fuel prices are eating into their savings’. 

If people eat at home, they eat in, as in ‘We usually eat in during the week’, but if they go out to restaurants, they eat out, as in ‘It’s a real pleasure to eat out from time to time’. 

The verb to eat up can be used to mean to consume all of a particular thing, as in ‘Come on. If you don’t eat up your cabbage, you won’t be having any pudding’. It can also be used with the same basic meaning as eat into to mean ‘to consume’, as in ‘You’ll soon find that doing an online degree course eats up almost all of your free time’. 

If you travel a certain distance easily and steadily, you can be said to be eating up the miles, as in ‘They drove on through the night on empty roads, gradually eating up the distance between themselves and home’. 

With a similar meaning to ‘lap up’, eat up can also be used to indicate that you like something so much that you want to hear or see more of it, as in ‘Most celebrities eat up the attention they get in the media’.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Free pragmatics lesson plans brought to you by Macmillan Dictionary as part of the Macmillan Year of Life skills.

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