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What is the exact meaning of this sentence?

Got Questions? Ask Away and I'll Answer

In what other cases can I put "away" after a verb to suggest a continuing action? Please provide examples.

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4  
You should have told folks to "fire away!" – Hot Licks Feb 28 at 19:30
    
Faraway I heard a woodpecker hammering away like a devil. - "away" after a verb of action expresses the idee that the action is performed with eagerness over a longer period. – rogermue Feb 29 at 18:19
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Interesting question. It means more than just a continuing action: it means "carry on with energy".

I can think of a few more examples, but all the rest are about physical activities, usually to do with building: "hammer away" ,"bang away", "saw away". Those can all be used indicatively as well ("He sawed away at the logs until the pile was gone"), but I think "ask away" would only be used as an imperative: "Ask away!".

Perhaps some less energetic actions will work: "He sewed away at the pile of cloths"; but I can't imagine "they cut away at the papers", or "she folded away at the blankets" in that sense. (In both those cases, there is another idiom which would compete in meaning: "cut away" meaning "cut parts off/out, leaving behind the part which is wanted" and "fold away" meaning "fold and put in storage".)

So, all in all, I'm quite puzzled as to which verbs will work and which won't. I'm sure that there is a connotation of energy, though.

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You can also dash away with a smoothing iron (but not much else unless there's a dashing off involved). This is probably the 'away' of 'away we go', a broadening of the 'hurtling into the unknown' sense. The 'boldly going' metaphor. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 at 16:49
    
"saw away" gives me the impression of some one who had in the past not looked at something he should have, so he saw away ^^ – Zaibis Feb 29 at 10:19

I think "away" in this sense means "without hesitation" or "as much as you want." It can be used with any verb I suppose, e.g., "swing away" in baseball. However in many cases away is already used after a verb to mean something else, as in "run away," "give away" or "look away."

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Just to add to the confusion, there's phrases like "chip away," which fits the pattern you asked about and "chip away at," where the thing being chipped away at is going away. – Doug Glancy Feb 28 at 16:53
    
Alright, my first downvote in this forum! It would be great to know why. – Doug Glancy Feb 28 at 16:56
1  
You have been hit by a driveby downvote, a curse upon this site. I can guess the reason. Away is very old, from Old English on + weg (journey, path). The OED finds 17 major senses, all but two with the meaning of separation and removal, spatially, temporally, or metaphorically: with go, take, put, throw, sleep, turn, etc. But in the 1500s, two different senses emerged: continuously (while away, chip away) and immediately (fire away, right away), Your answer is correct, but incomplete and undocumented, which may have attracted the downvoter. (Not me, though) – deadrat Feb 28 at 19:54
1  
Thanks @deadrat. I figured it might have to do with giving the kind of answer that starts with "I think." – Doug Glancy Feb 28 at 20:40

In this context, away is a synonym for freely (i.e., without restriction).

Other examples include:

Person A: I want to dance. Person B: Dance away.

Person A: I want to watch television. Person B: Watch away.

Person A: I want to eat jellybeans. Person B: Eat away.

See the pattern?

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"___ away," where it is not relating to a physical location as in "run away" is idiomatic, it's a way of inviting someone to do something, rather than ordering or requesting it you are being told to do the thing "for as long / as much as you would like to do the thing". It is usually perceived as more casual or friendly.

This can be used as a suffix with just about any verb, but usually only where the verb is short (usually one or two syllables and a single word) and the resulting phrase rolls off the tongue, for example, "dance away" would be a normal way of saying "dance as much as you like" but you would barely ever hear somebody say "evacuate away" though you could, just as well, say that.

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According to the online slang dictionary the meaning reref to "as much as you want or like:"

Ask away:

  • "Ask any questions that you'd like."

Person A: Can I ask you some questions about your marketing experience?

Person B: Ask away.

It may derive from the adverbial usage of away with the meaning of :

  • without stopping; continuously: he worked away all night.

(Your dictionary.com)

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The feeling here to me is similar to that conveyed by "knock yourself out," although perhaps without the slightly sardonic air that phrase is sometimes delivered with—the granting of an open-ended permission to take the action described by the verb.

"Fire away" also comes to mind.

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