top of page

The Phrasal Verb 'Take Out' Explained

Updated: Apr 26

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'take out', with lots of examples in context.


Take out food in a box

Hello and welcome to my website for English learners all about phrasal verbs!


This is a post on the phrasal verb 'take out' and its different meanings and uses in English.


I'm sure many of you will already be familiar with the phrasal verb 'take out', especially if you have spent time in the USA and eaten fast food there. Do you know the other meanings of 'take out', though? For instance, did you know that 'taking someone out' can either mean something very nice or very horrible, depending on the context? Or, did you know that someone can take something out on you, which may also take it out of them. I appreciate that this is very confusing, but don't worry as in this post, I will explain to you all of the different ways that 'take out' is used by native speakers, with lots of examples in context to help you understand and learn them. So, without further ado, let's get started....


PS Don't forget to leave a comment at the end with your own sentence using 'take out'!


TAKE OUT: KEY INFORMATION For an explanation of the terms in the table, click here

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

7

Separable?

Yes

Past tense forms

Took out / Taken out


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

THE BASICS

Before we look at the meanings of the phrasal verb 'take out', let's first take a moment to consider the meanings of the individual words 'take' and 'out' on their own.


Firstly, we have the verb 'to take', which is frequently found near the top of the lists of the most common verbs in the English language and which you will certainly be familiar with. The verb 'to take' has a lot of different meanings and uses in English, however the most relevant meanings for the purposes of this post are perhaps 'to remove something' and 'to carry something with you'.


In addition to 'take' we have the prepositional particle 'out', which is normally used to refer to either being on, or moving towards, the exterior of something. When used in phrasal verbs, 'out' often adds the idea of movement away from the interior of something, as well as the ideas of resolution and exclusion, among others.


Now that we have considered its constituent words, let's move on to the reason you are here and the different meanings of the phrasal verb 'take out'....

 

MEANING 1: To remove something from an interior space

A dentist tending to a patient's teeth

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To extract, to remove, to extricate

Separable?

Yes

I always like to try and start these lists of phrasal verb meanings with one that is nice and simple and this post is no different. The first meaning of 'take out' that I will explain to you is 'to remove something from an interior space'.


As I mentioned above, one of the principal meanings of the verb 'to take' is to remove something from a place and when we combine this with the meaning of 'out', as in moving from an interior space to an exterior one, it gives us the nice literal meaning of removing something from an interior space.


This literal meaning of 'take out' can be used in many different areas of life. You can use it to describe actions as diverse as removing the trash from your house, removing the batteries from a device when they have run out and having a dentist extract a tooth from your mouth.


Regardless of the situation or circumstances, the general idea is that something is removed from an internal space, so that it is no longer there. If you can remove it or extract it from an interior place, you can take it out.

Examples of usage....

In order to clean the fridge properly, I had to take out all of the food so that it was empty.
John went to the dentist last week and had five teeth taken out.
We will carry out the operation today and then you will have to come back in two weeks so that we can take out the stitches.
Take your thumb out of your mouth when you are speaking! I can't understand what you are saying!
As I was taking the clean clothes out of the washing machine, I noticed that they had all turned pink.
 

MEANING 2: To buy food and eat it elsewhere

Take-out burgers and fries in their packaging

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

American

Potential synonyms

To take away, to carry out

Separable?

Yes

If you have ever spent time in the USA, then you may be very familiar with this next meaning of 'take out', which is 'to buy food and drink from somewhere and then go somewhere else to consume it'. It literally means that you are taking the food out of the restaurant.


This is an application that you will hear mostly in fast food establishments where this usage originated and where customers are asked if they are eating in or taking out as standard. However, since the Covid-19 pandemic it has become more and more popular with traditional restaurants too (although perhaps not the 5-star ones).


You should note that this is more of a North American usage and in the UK and Australia 'take away' is used instead (also carry out in Scotland), however 'take out' is absolutely fine in these countries and will be understood very well.

TAKEOUT AS A NOUN

You should note that the noun 'takeout' or 'take-out' also exists, which derives directly from this usage of the phrasal verb 'take out'. As a noun, 'takeout' can refer either to the food that is bought from an establishment and eaten somewhere else, or to the restaurant itself where the takeout food is purchased.

Examples of usage....

Ok, so one burger and fries. Are you eating in or taking out?
We bought some takeout food and went and ate it next to the river.
 

MEANING 3: To take someone somewhere for pleasure

A man and a woman in a restaurant drinking wine

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To escort

Separable?

Yes

Did you know that when functioning as adjectives, the particles 'in' and 'out' can be used to mean if a person is at home (in) or not at home (out). From this particular usage of the word 'out', we get our third meaning of the phrasal verb 'take out', which is 'to take someone to a place, for pleasure or fun'.


This usage of 'take out' is all about treating someone or doing something nice for them. Normally, the person who takes out the other person will organise and invite the lucky recipient and, more often than not, will pay for them too.


Most commonly, this application of 'take out' is used with bars and restaurants but can also apply to the theatre, cinema, museum or any other place where you may go for pleasure. It is important to note that we do not tend to use 'take out' for any overnight trips or holidays to a different place as 'take away' would be used here instead.


Examples of usage....

My son is taking me out to London for the day tomorrow.
Roger took Lisa out to the cinema last night.
Can you babysit next Friday night for me? It's John's birthday and I would love to take him out for a meal as a present.
 

MEANING 4: To enter into a financial agreement

A home insurance form on a table

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To buy, to enter into (a contract)

Separable?

Yes

Nouns commonly used with

Mortgage, insurance, policy, loan

Do you own a car, motorbike or other vehicle? If you do, there is a very good chance that you have had to buy insurance for it at some point and this brings us to the next meaning of 'take out', which is 'to enter into a financial agreement with a company'.


To clarify, if you enter into a financial contract with a company, for example by agreeing with them to supply you with a loan or a mortgage, then you can say that you 'take out' a loan or a mortgage with them.


I'm not sure exactly where this comes from, however one possible suggestion would be that in the past, if you wanted to 'take out' a financial policy or agreement with a bank, you would need to go to the bank to sign the documents and take a copy of them out with you to keep at home as your own personal record of the transaction....who knows? It's possible I guess!


This also covers when you buy an insurance or any other type policy with a company as well and in this instance you say that you 'take out insurance'.


Examples of usage....

It is a legal requirement to take out home insurance when you buy your new house.
I tried to take out a mortgage with my bank, however the application was declined as I did not have enough money.
We took a car insurance policy out with a company, which has since gone bankrupt.
 

MEANING 5: To kill someone


An archer preparing to shoot an arrow

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Yes

Potential synonyms

To kill, to murder, to injure

Separable?

Yes

So, as we established earlier in the post, if a person offers to take you out, then it is usually a good thing and you should definitely agree. However, if someone looks at you with an angry look on their face and threatens to take you out, then you should probably think twice before agreeing as it is more likely that they want to kill you or do you harm, which is the next meaning of 'take out' that we will look at.


In addition to killing or murdering someone, 'take out' can also be used to mean 'to injure someone to the point that they cannot fight you back or will no longer pose a problem to you.

This usage may have originated from the idea that someone is 'in' a fight or a game, and once injured or hurt, they are then forced 'out' as they are no longer to compete.


Luckily for most people, the chances of someone threatening to take you out in this way are extremely small, however it is something that you may come across whilst watching English-language TV shows and movies. Moreover, this usage is a relatively informal one and not one that you are likely to hear in official or formal situations.


'Take out' can also be used to talk about destroying things rather than killing people and this is perhaps most commonly heard when talking about warfare and the military.


Grammatically speaking, this application of 'take out' is often used in the passive sense with the verb 'get'. For example, if someone gets taken out by someone or something, it means that they are killed or prevented from continuing in a competition or fight.


Examples of usage....

One of the most important aspects of this computer game is to take out as many enemy spies as possible.
The boxer took his opponent out in less than five rounds.
The army has taken out all of the enemy's ships.
I almost got taken out by a falling tree as I was cycling home during the storm last night.
 
A post it note with the words 'Take A Break' written on it surrounded by scrunched up pieces of paper

Ok, so we have looked at the first five meanings of 'take out' now, so just take a minute to absorb them and let them sink into your memory. The next two meanings that we will look at all require an additional preposition to make sense....once you're ready to continue, scroll down ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️

 

MEANING 6: To treat someone badly because you feel bad

A man slamming his fist on a table and shouting menacingly towards the camera

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Separable?

Always

Have you ever been in a bad mood and then shouted at someone or treated them badly because of it? If you have, then you might say that 'you took your bad mood out on them' as the next meaning of 'take out' is to treat someone badly because you are feeling bad.


For this usage, we require the additional prepositional particle 'on' and the construction is as follows: 'to take something / it out on someone'.


We tend to use this application of 'take out' when there is a specific reason why we are in a bad mood. This could be anything from feeling tired, having a bad day at work, having an argument with somebody or feeling disappointed about something. Whatever the cause of our ill temper, the result is always the same, i.e. we behave horribly towards someone else, although it is not their fault.


People are not the only victims of this negative treatment though, as it is also possible to take a bad mood out on objects or things, normally by abusing them or even breaking them as a way of getting rid of the negative emotion.

Examples of usage....

When the England team lost the football game, John took his bad mood out on his friends.
I'm sorry for yesterday. I was in a bad mood and I took it out on you.
I understand that you have had an argument with your boss, but I will not tolerate you taking it out on me!
Sarah had a bad day at the office yesterday and so she took it out on the punching bag in the gym later that evening.
 

MEANING 7: To make you feel very tired


A walrus yawning with its mouth pointing upwards

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To tire out, to exhaust, to wear out, to drain, to sap

Separable?

Always

For the final usage of 'take out', we are looking at a more idiomatic meaning, which is 'to make you feel very tired or exhausted'.


For this we need the additional preposition 'of', giving us the following set structure:


'to take it out of someone'.


If something takes it out of you, it takes away all of your energy and makes you feel very tired and exhausted. This can be used for anything that tires you out, from looking after children to speaking a foreign language for a long period of time. Don't use this for when you feel a little bit tired though, it should be reserved for really tiring activities that make you want to lie down and sleep for a few hours afterwards!


Examples of usage....

It was Freddy's first day at school today and he was so tired when he came home; it really took it out of him.
I love looking after my grandchildren but it takes it out of me!
John has been training for the marathon this week and it has taken it out of him.
 
The words 'The End' spelled out with yellow tiles on a blue background

Well this brings us to the end of the post. I sincerely hope that it hasn't taken it out of you! Before we finish, let's quickly recap the different meanings of 'take out' to ensure that they stick in your memory....


Firstly, we have the literal meaning, which is to remove something from an inside space. If you go to a restaurant, buy some food and then take it somewhere to eat it, you are taking it out. If someone takes you out, it can mean either that they take you somewhere for pleasure or that they want to kill you or remove you from a competition. We also use 'take out' with insurance policies, mortgages and financial agreements when we first agree to them. If someone has a bad day, they may treat you badly as a result and take it out on you and lastly, if something makes you feel very tired, it takes it out of you.


Now it is YOUR turn. Leave a comment below with your own sentence using 'take out' or any questions or comments that you have....don't be shy!


Sign up below to receive weekly phrasal verb posts straight into your inbox and be the first to access each blog post as soon as it is published! Lastly, if you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media. See you next time! James 😊



Related Posts

See All

留言

評等為 0(最高為 5 顆星)。
暫無評等

新增評等

JOIN THE MAILING LIST TO RECEIVE NEW POSTS DIRECT IN YOUR INBOX!

Thanks for submitting! A new phrasal verb post will be emailed to you every Friday!

bottom of page