Feeling washed out? Tim Bowen’s article could be the perfect tonic …

A number of phrasal verbs are formed with the verb wash and even the most familiar one, wash up, is of note because it has a different meaning in British English, where it means to do the dishes, and American English, where it normally means to wash your hands, for example before a meal.

To wash away can mean to get rid of unhappy or painful feelings, as in ‘Drugs can’t help and whisky won’t wash away the pain’. It can also be used when something is moved with great force by water, as in ‘The bridge was washed away in the floods’.

If you wash something down, you drink something after putting food or medicine in your mouth, usually so that you can swallow it more easily, as in ‘We had a curry and washed it down with a few glasses of beer’ and ‘Here are your pills and here’s a glass of water to wash them down’.  

If you remove something such as dirt, a mark or a substance from cloth, you wash it out, as in ‘Permanent dyes won’t wash out’ but if an event is washed out, it doesn’t take place because of heavy rain, as in ‘It looked like the first game of the season would be washed out’. A washed-out person, on the other hand, looks very pale and ill or tired, as in ‘I hardly recognized him when I saw him. He looked so washed out’.

A washed-up person is one who will never been popular or successful again, as in ‘She became an actress, a real actress not a washed-up joke like her mother’ but if you wash up somewhere, you turn up unexpectedly after a long time, as in ‘He stays out for four days and eventually washes up at his brother’s house’.