Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal Verbs: some lonely phrasal verbs 3

Type: Article

Tim Bowen wouldn't dream of fobbing you off with this week's collection of odd phrasal verbs.

English has some strange-looking and strange-sounding words. One example is the verb to eke (pronounced /i:k/) which in current usage is only used in the phrasal verb eke out, and is believed to be derived from an Old English word meaning ‘to increase'. Eke out has two basic meanings. If you eke something out, you make it last as long as possible, e.g. They have to eke out their fuel supplies throughout the winter or My mother used to eke the food out by making soup from the leftovers. In combination with either living or existence, it means to get just enough food or money to exist, as in The family barely manages to eke out a living from their small farm.

Another odd-looking word is fob, which as a verb only exists in the form to fob off. This also has two basic meanings. If you fob someone off, you give them an answer that is not true or complete, usually in order to make them stop asking questions or complaining, as in I'm tired of being fobbed off or It was impossible to fob her off with vague statements. Normally used in the passive voice, it can also mean to give someone something that is not what they want or need, e.g. Customer complain they're being fobbed off with an inferior model.

Completing this trio of verbs that are only used in phrasal verb form is the verb to mete, which is used with the particle out. Its sole use is in the meaning of 'administer a punishment', as in The building was the local courthouse where justice was meted out and The same treatment should be meted out to politicians who break the rules.

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