Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: scrape

Type: Article

Have you ever struggled to scrape together enough money to pay the bills? Or scraped through in a sports tournament? More phrasal verbs courtesy of Tim Bowen.

If you scrape something together it means you get a sufficient number of that thing, even if it may take considerable effort to do so, as in 'We wanted to play a game of baseball and we managed to just scrape together enough people to make a team'. Scrape together is also used in the context of getting enough money for a particular purpose, as in 'They have trouble even scraping together enough money to pay their rent each month'.

Having just enough money to pay for the things you need in order to live but no more is also the basic concept underlying the intransitive phrasal verb to scrape by, as in ‘She earns just enough money to scrape by’. The meaning is very similar to get by but scrape by implies an even narrower margin between making ends meet and not making them meet.

To scrape in or into means to achieve a position by a very small number of votes or points, as in ‘The new candidate scraped in by a tiny one-vote margin’ or ‘They managed to scrape into the final with a nail-biting 2-1 win in extra time’.

In a sporting context, a team or individual can also scrape through to a further stage of a competition but not in a very impressive way, as in ‘After a gruelling match played in pouring rain, they managed to scrape through to the next round by a two-point margin'.

Scrape out has the more literal meaning of rubbing a sharp edge or tool against the side of a container to remover something from it, as in ‘Mum lets me scrape out the bowl when she makes a cake’, and if you scrape back your hair, you tie it back very tightly so that it does not touch your face, as in ‘She wears her fair hair scraped back’.

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