top of page

The Phrasal Verb 'Go Out' Explained

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'go out', with examples and exercises.


A man with a Happy New Year balloon holding a glass of champagne

Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs. Each week, I take a different phrasal verb and look at how it is used by native speakers, with a focus on the different meanings that it has and the expressions and idioms that it is used in.


AS THIS IS MY FINAL POST OF 2023, I WANT TO WISH ALL OF MY READERS A HAPPY NEW YEAR. MANY THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT THIS YEAR.


The phrasal verb 'go out' is a commonly used phrasal verb with a varied range of meanings, some of which you are more likely to hear at this time of year. In this post, we will look at seven different meanings that it has in English, as well as some common idioms that it features in. So, without further ado, let's get started....


GO OUT: KEY INFORMATION

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

7

Separable?

No

Past tense forms

Went out / Gone out

For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here.

 

THE BASICS

The letters ABC written on a blackboard with books and chalk sticks in the foreground

Before we look at the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'go out', let's first examine the meanings of the constituent words 'go' and 'out'.


The verb 'to go' is one of the most common English verbs and is primarily used to talk about movement or travel from one place to another, but it also has a number of different meanings, including 'to become' and 'to function'.'Going to' is also used a way of expressing the future tense in English.


The prepositional particle 'out', like most prepositions in English, has a multitude of different meanings and uses and can function as a number of different classes of word (adverb, adjective etc.). First and foremost, it is used as the opposite of 'in' and refers to movement towards the exterior of something or being situated on the outside of something. As an adjective, it can be used to mean 'not at home', 'no longer in a competition or group' or 'extinguished (of a power source)' among many other things.


Now that we have covered the basics, let's move on to the different meanings of 'go out'....

 

MEANING 1: To leave your house



CEFR Language Level

A1 - Beginner

Usage

Common

British or American

Both

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To leave, to head out

The first meaning of 'go out' is to leave your house or place where you live, or less commonly a workplace or place where you habitually spend a lot of time.


This meaning of 'go out' comes from the use of 'out' as an adverb to mean 'not at home'....

I am going to be out all day tomorrow, so can you please arrange for the delivery to arrive the following day.
I called in at your house but you were out.

In addition to this, the verb 'to go' then adds the element of leaving the house or movement away from it.


Examples of usage....

I am going out in 5 minutes, so I don't have time to chat now.
After John had an argument with Lisa, he went out for a bit to give them both a chance to calm down.
Helen's not here at the moment, I'm afraid. She's gone out for the day and I'm not sure what time she will be back.

We use 'go out' to refer to any time that we leave our house or place of residence, however it is often used specifically by native speakers to mean 'to leave your house to go somewhere to socialise', such as a bar, restaurant or party. The additional preposition 'for' can also be used here to specify what you are doing.


Examples of usage....

We are going out tonight with some friends who we have not seen for a long time.
Roger and Sophie went out for a meal last night at the new restaurant in town.
Are you free later? Shall we go out for a drink?

The word BONUS spelled out using different coloured helium balloons held up by different hands

EXTRA INFORMATION TO SOUND LIKE A NATIVE SPEAKER

In recent years in British English the informal expression 'to go out out', with the double repetition of the particle 'out', has started to be used to talk about when people go out to socialise. However, 'going out out' is normally reserved for when people have a big, extravagant night out and spend a lot of money, wear their best clothes and often finish the evening drunk.


Examples of usage...

Are you going out tonight or are you going out out?
I can't remember the last time that my wife and I went out out. It's not so easy to do when you have children.
 

MEANING 2: To be extinguished




CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To be extinguished, to turn off

Used commonly with these nouns

Light, fire, flame, candle, power, electricity

The second meaning of 'go out' is 'to be extinguished', or in other words, to no longer be burning or emitting energy in heat or light form. This form of 'go out' is commonly used with the nouns 'fire' and 'light', but can also be used with other nouns for sources of energy.


You may remember from earlier in the post that another meaning of 'out', when used as an adverb, is to describe when sources of energy are extinguished....so if a candle is out, it's no longer burning and if a light is out, it's no longer shining (in the same way as when it's 'off').


When we combine this meaning of 'out' with the verb 'to go', we get the specific meaning of a power source stopping emitting light or heat. Note that we normally only use this application when the power source is extinguished without human intervention.


Other nouns that this application of 'go out' is used with, especially in American English, are 'power' and 'electricity', to describe when there is a blackout or a power cut.


Examples of usage....

The fire went out whilst John and Lisa were sleeping.
When the children were telling each other ghost stories, the lights in the room suddenly went out and everyone started screaming.
The power has gone out all over the city due to the storm.
 

MEANING 3: To leave a competition



CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To be eliminated, to leave

The next meaning of 'go out' is 'to leave a competition', or in other words, 'to be eliminated from a competition, so that you can no longer compete in it and win it'.


Similarly to the previous two meanings of 'go out' that we have looked at, this one is also derived from an adverbial usage of the word 'out'. In addition to meaning 'not at home' and 'extinguished', 'out' can be used as an adverb to mean 'no longer active in a competition or activity' and combining this meaning with the verb 'to go', it gives us the idea of being eliminated from a competition and leaving it.


As you will undoubtedly have guessed, this application of 'go out' is used primarily with sports and games to describe when a player or competitor is eliminated from competing and can no longer play or win.


One notable exception to this is with card games as when a person 'goes out' in cards, it often means that they have got rid of all of their cards and, by doing so, have won the game.


Examples of usage....

Aston Villa went out in the third round of the Championship cup after losing to local rivals Birmingham City.
If one of the players catches the ball after you hit it, you automatically go out of the competition.
The objective of the game is to go out and win the competition by being the first player to place all of your cards on the table.
 

MEANING 4: To have a romantic relationship with someone



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To date

The fourth meaning of 'go out' is an informal application and means 'to have a romantic relationship with someone'.


This meaning of 'go out' is a synonym of the verb 'to date' and more than likely derives from the idea of people going out on dates when they are in the early stages of a relationship.


Although 'to go out' and 'to date' can often be used interchangeably, I would say that the meaning of 'go out' has evolved slightly and is often used to describe something more long-term than 'to date', often even to describe a relationship until a couple gets married. 'To date', on the other hand, tends to be used more for a short-term or casual relationship.


On a grammatical note, this usage of 'go out' is often used with continuous tenses, especially when the relationship in question is ongoing. Moreover, the additional preposition 'with' is required here when specifying who a person is in a relationship with.


Examples of usage....

John and Lisa have been going out for over three years but have no plans to get married.
He's very attractive. Is he going out with anyone at the moment?
Since when has Roger been single? I thought he was going out with Ashley.
Debbie and Mel went out with each other for a while but decided to remain friends.
 

MEANING 5: To cease to be popular or fashionable



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To become outdated

The next meaning of 'go out' is 'to stop being popular, fashionable or trendy.


For this meaning, we need to firstly consider that one of the meanings of the particle 'in' as an adjective is 'trendy', 'fashionable' or 'popular'. As I stated at the beginning of the post in the Basics section, 'out' usually functions as the opposite of 'in' and consequently, if we describe something as 'out', it means that it is no longer popular or in fashion.


Furthermore, when we say that something 'goes out', we are talking about the time when it becomes unfashionable or no longer popular. This is normally used for nouns to describe music, clothes, fashion, societal trends and even words and vocabulary. Sometimes, we also use the expression 'to go out of fashion' as an alternative way to express this.


Grammatically, this application of 'go out' tends to be used with past tenses as we are not always aware when something is becoming unpopular in the present moment.


Examples of usage....

Flared trousers and platform shoes went out in the 1970s.
Swing music went out years ago but there are still some people who enjoy listening to it.
Here is a list of some social etiquette rules that have gone out of fashion but should be brought back.
 

MEANING 6: To recede (tide)



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper Intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To recede, to ebb

The sixth meaning of 'go out' is a much more limited application than the others that we have looked at so far and means 'to recede'. This is a very specific usage as it is used specifically to refer to the tide (the twice daily movement of the oceans caused by the moon).


When referring to the tides, we say that the tide is 'in' when the sea is close to the land and that it is 'out' when it is far from the land. Furthermore, to describe the movement of the oceans and tides, we state that they 'come in' when the sea water moves towards the beach and that they 'go out' when it moves away from the shore. Note that we do not use this to talk about individual waves but rather for the general tidal movement towards and away from the land that occurs over a period of hours.


Examples of usage....

The tide is in at the moment but when it goes out again i will reveal the rocks on the beach.
We had a nice walk along the beach as the tide was going out.
 

MEANING 7: To be announced or published



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both - some uses are more British

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To be broadcast

Used commonly with these nouns

Programme, Show, Podcast, Message, Information, Announcement

The seventh and final meaning of 'go out' is 'to be announced or broadcast' and is used to talk about when information and programmes are transmitted to the general public.


Here, we use 'go out' to talk about the time or the moment when the information or the programme is released and made public. Whilst 'go out' is used universally in English for the transmission of information and messages, it is worth noting that 'go out' to describe the transmission and broadcasting of TV programmes, radio programmes and podcasts is more of a British English usage.


Examples of usage....

New episodes of the podcast go out at 7pm every Sunday evening.
The information went out to all news agencies.
 

The word BONUS spelled out using different coloured helium balloons held up by different hands

IDIOM ALERT!!

Before I end this post, I want to make you aware of some common idiomatic phrases and expressions that exist featuring the phrasal verb 'go out'...


My heart goes out to.... - This is an expression that is used when you want to express sympathy for someone who is experiencing problems or troubles in their life.

I've heard your bad news and my heart goes out to you! If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.

To go out of your way to do something - If you go out of your way to do something, it means that you make a big effort to do something that you perhaps would not normally do.

John has gone out of his way to make your visit pleasant and all you have done is complain!

To go out on a limb - If you go out on a limb, it means that you express an opinion that is different to that of other people and you are perhaps the only person in the group who expresses it.

I am going out on a limb here but I didn't enjoy the film at all. I know you all loved it, but I thought it was terrible.

To go out with a bang - Lastly, if you go out with a bang, it means that you finish doing something in an exciting or dramatic way.

It is our final day at university tomorrow and we are intending to go out with a bang by playing some tricks on the lecturer.
 

Question marks in different coloured, overlapping speech bubbles on a black background

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE Re-write the following sentences using 'to go out'....


  1. I need to leave the house shortly, so please be quick.

  2. Suddenly, all of the lights in the room turned off by themselves.

  3. The England football team were eliminated from the competition in the first round.

  4. They have been dating for several weeks.

  5. This hasn't been popular since the turn of the century.

  6. The tide is in at the moment, so we need to wait for it to recede again.

The answers will be available on next week's post.

 

EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'WRAP UP'

  1. How long did it take you to WRAP UP all of these presents?

  2. You should WRAP UP if you are going outside.

  3.  Let's WRAP this meeting UP, it's getting late.

  4. He WRAPPED UP all of the points of the meeting very succinctly.

  5.  Linda was totally WRAPPED UP in her problems and she didn't think about her husband's.

  6. John has been completely WRAPPED UP IN COTTON WOOL for his whole life.

 

This brings us to the end of the post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.


If you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.


Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'go out' below. I really love reading them. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form below.



bottom of page