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Your English: Word grammar: blank

Type: Article

Don’t blank out the intricacies of word grammar, let Tim Bowen fill in the blanks.

The word blank is most commonly used as an adjective but it can also function as a noun and a verb.

Apart from its more common adjectival meaning of ‘empty’, as in ‘a blank sheet of paper’ or ‘a blank television screen’, it can also be used to indicate that someone is showing no emotion or sign of understanding something or recognizing someone, as in ‘He had a blank look on his face and barely seemed to recognize us’.

If your mind goes blank, you are unable to remember something, especially when someone has just asked you a question, as in ‘I knew the answer but my mind went blank for a moment’.

As a noun, a blank is an empty space on a piece of paper, something familiar to language students who are asked to fill in the blanks. A blank can also be used to refer to a gun cartridge that explodes when the gun is fired but contains no bullet, ‘As part of the training exercise, each recruit was asked to fire several rounds of blanks’.

If you blank someone, you deliberately ignore them as if you have not seen or heard them, as in ‘I said hello but she completely blanked me’. If you blank or blank out, you are unexpectedly unable to remember something, as in ‘When it came to the written part of the exam, I completely blanked out’. You can also blank out a feeling or memory, if you deliberately try not to think about it or try to forget it, ‘The experience was so dreadful that these days I just try to blank it out’.

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