A phrasal verb consists of a root verb (such as go, put or set) and an adverb or preposition (such as away, on or out).
Phrasal verbs are idiomatic, which means that the phrasal verb has a different meaning to the individual words within the phrase.
This blog explains the meanings of eight common phrasal verbs containing the verb cut.
1. Cut across
There are three different meanings for 'cut across':
- To go around an area of land to save time.
e.g. I cut across the field because I was running late.
- To pass through or across something.
e.g. A bridge cuts across the track a few metres ahead.
- To affect two or more groups simultaneously.
e.g. These arguments cut across class boundaries.
2. Cut back
There are three meanings to the phrasal verb ‘cut back’:
- To reduce the amount of money that you spend.
e.g. We need to cut back on our spending.
- To start doing or using less of something.
e.g. I smoke but I’m trying to cut back.
- To remove parts of a plant or tree to reduce its size (prune).
e.g. I had to cut back several branches that were blocking the path.
3. Cut down
There are five meanings to the phrasal verb ‘cut down’:
- To reduce the amount of something.
e.g. The new windows should help cut down on the traffic noise.
- To start eating, drinking or smoking less of something.
e.g. You need to cut down your alcohol intake and exercise more.
- To make a piece of writing shorter.
e.g. This piece of work needs to be cut down by 100 words.
- To cut through the main part of a tree.
e.g. We’ve tried to stop them from cutting down the rainforest.
- (literary) When a weapon (usually a sword) cuts them down and kills them.
e.g. Hundreds of men were cut down on the battlefield.
4. Cut in
There are four meanings to the phrasal verb 'cut in':
- To interrupt someone who is speaking.
e.g. Paul cut in with the occasional sarcastic reply.
- To drive past a vehicle and move quickly in front of them.
e.g. The red mini cut in in front of me.
- When a piece of equipment starts working automatically.
e.g. The air conditioning cuts in when the temperature goes above 20.
- To allow someone to have part of the profits of something.
e.g. They let me cut in on the deal.
5. Cut into
There are two meanings to cut into:
- To reduce the amount of something.
e.g. The long days really cut into my home time.
- To interrupt an activity or process.
e.g. A loud bang on the door cut into his thoughts.
6. Cut off
There are eight meanings to the phrasal verb 'cut off':
- To remove something by cutting it.
e.g. I decided to cut off my hair.
- To stop providing a supply of something.
e.g. Our food supply has been cut off.
- To stop something from going somewhere.
e.g. The police cut off their track.
- To make a place difficult or impossible to enter.
The town was completely cut off for four days.
- To prevent someone from leaving a place.
e.g. He was secluded and cut off from the outside world.
- To prevent someone from continuing what they’re saying.
e.g. She cut him off as he spoke.
- To refuse to allow someone to get your money.
e.g. Her father cut her off before he died.
- To stop having a close friendship or relationship with someone.
e.g. Everyone in the village cut off the old man in the yellow house.
(Bonus fact: If you’re in a bar and you’ve drank too much the bartender can refuse to serve you anymore, thereby cutting you off. For example: You’ve had too much to drink, I will have to cut you off.)
7. Cut out
There are nine meanings to the phrasal verb 'cut out':
- To remove something from a larger piece of something.
e.g. I cut out this newspaper article for you.
- To make something by cutting it from something else.
e.g. He cut out several star shapes and glued them onto the costume.
- To remove parts from something such as a piece of writing.
e.g. They’ve cut out six scenes from my script.
- To stop eating or doing something (usually for health reasons).
e.g. I’ve cut out sugar from my diet.
- To stop doing something that someone finds annoying.
e.g. You’re chewing too loud – cut it out!
- To stop something such as noise or light.
e.g. The thick curtains cut out most of the light from the street.
- To exclude someone.
e.g. I’m not trying to cut you out but…
- When an engine or machine fails.
e.g. The car cut out.
- To suddenly leave a line of traffic and join another one.
e.g. The car suddenly cut out in front of us.
8. Cut through
There are two meanings to the phrasal verb 'cut through':
- To go through an area rather than go around it.
e.g. He decided to cut through the forest.
- To move quickly and smoothly through something.
e.g. Germany cut through the Spanish defence and scored a try.
Simultaneously (adverb) at the same time.
Reduce (verb) make smaller or less in amount, degree, or size.
Intake (noun) an amount of food, air, or another substance taken into the body.
Exclude (verb) deny (someone) access to a place, group, or privilege.
This blog was written by Intrepid English teacher, Tom. Find out more about Tom on his Intrepid English Teacher profile page.
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Image credits: Pixabay@Pablo
Macmillan Phrasal Verbs Plus Dictionary. Bloomsbury, Oxford. 2005.