Cut through the confusion and cut out any needless mistakes with Tim Bowen’s latest look at phrasal verbs.

‘Health experts are recommending that people in the categories judged to be most at risk should cut out red meat completely.’ If you cut something out, you stop eating it or using it, especially because it is bad for your health. Mainly used in the imperative form, to cut out can also mean to stop doing something that someone else considers to be annoying, as in ‘That’s enough squabbling, you two. Cut it out, will you!’ 

If you cut someone out of something such as a plan or an agreement, you exclude them from it, as in ‘His mother has been threatening to cut him out of her will’. In a situation where you wish to deal directly with someone rather than talking to their representatives and avoid unnecessary stages in a process, you may wish to cut out the middleman, as in ‘Ordering goods on the internet is one way of cutting out the middleman’. 

If you are not cut out for something, you do not have the right qualities or character for it, as in ‘He was never cut out for army life’. 

Apart from its more literal meaning of cutting your way through undergrowth using a sharp implement, to cut through can also be used to mean to deal quickly and effectively with something that causes problems or is confusing, as in ‘We had to cut through a lot of red tape to get permission to build an extension to our kitchen’. 

To cut through can also mean to go through a particular area rather than going around the edge of it, as in ‘I had decided to cut through the field and quickly realised my mistake when I saw the bull’.