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Your English: Word grammar: bum

Type: Article

There’s no bumming around for Tim Bowen as he shows why word grammar is never a bum deal.

The word bum is most commonly used as a noun, but it can also function as a verb and an adjective. Its main meaning as a noun is as an informal term for the human buttocks.

Particularly in American English, it can also be used to refer pejoratively to a person who without a job or a place to live who asks people for money in the street. Again in American English, it can also be used to mean a lazy person.

The expressions bums on seats is used to refer to the idea that it is important to have a lot of people going to an event or performance so that you will make more money or it will seem more impressive, as in ‘At the end of the day the only thing that counts in this business is bums on seats’.

As a verb, it usually means to ask someone to give you something such as a cigarette, drink or money without giving them anything in return, as in ‘I didn’t have any money but I managed to bum the train fare off my dad’.  

The phrasal verb bum around or bum about means to spend time relaxing and doing nothing in particular, as in ‘It makes a nice change to have a couple of days off to just bum around’.

As an adjective, bum is only used in the pre-nominal position and means bad or unfair, as in ‘You paid £200 for that pile of old junk? I’m sorry but I think you got a bum deal there!’

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