Have you every struck out on your own? Who are you struck on? Tim Bowen targets a versatile verb.

‘Rebel forces have struck back at government troops after heavy shelling in the area’. In other words, they have attacked as a response to being attacked themselves. To strike back can also be used in the context of responding angrily to criticism, as in ‘Faced with intense criticism of his methods, he struck back with a robust defence of his record in office’. In a sporting context, to strike back means to respond to a setback such as conceding a goal, as in ‘Two-nil down after ten minutes, the away team struck back with three goals in four minutes’.

Usually used in the passive voice, strike down means to be afflicted by a severe illness or disease, as in ‘In the early 1980s, many people in the area were struck down with a mysterious illness’.

If someone such as a doctor or lawyer is struck off, they are no longer allowed to work in their profession because they have done something unprofessional or illegal or are no longer considered capable of doing their job properly, as in ‘After numerous complaints from patients, he was struck off at the end of last month’. If you are struck on someone, you like them, as in ‘Lots of people like him but I’m not particularly struck on him’.

If you strike out on your own, you start doing something new or different, especially in order to become more independent, as in ‘After years with the same company, he has finally decided to strike out on his own and start his own business’. Strike out can also mean to remove words from a document, as in ‘I think you should strike the last sentence out’.