Don’t write off phrasal verbs too soon! Tim Bowen’s here to help.

‘United have started the season in uncharacteristically poor form but it’s too early to write off their title chances just yet’. This meaning of write off is to dismiss or decide that something will not succeed. It can also be applied to people, as in ‘He was written off at school but his latest business venture has made him a millionaire’. Write off can also be used in the sense of reject, as in ‘Don’t write off the idea until you know more about it’.

If a debt is written off, it is cancelled, as in ‘The industrialized countries have been urged to write off loans to the world’s poorest countries’. Similarly, it can be used to mean that you accept that you will not get back money that you have invested in something or given someone, as in ‘Liverpool won’t want to write off the millions they have spent on recruiting a new manager’.

If you write off to an organization, you ask them to send you something, as in ‘Why don’t you write off for more details?’ but if you write off a vehicle, you damage it so badly that it cannot be repaired, as in ‘He had to tell his parents he’d written off their car driving home from the party’.

The noun write-off can be used with the same meaning, as in ‘The other driver’s car was a complete write-off’. It can also mean a period of time when you fail to achieve anything, as in ‘Today was a write-off as far as work was concerned’.