Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What's the difference between a verb like read and read out or shout and shout out and so on? How does "out" change the meaning of verbs?

share|improve this question
    
In read out, the word out implies reading aloud, so it genuinely adds to the meaning. In shout out, some might argue it intensifies the "outwardly-directed" nature of the shouting, but I'm dubious. In stall out I think it's just a meaningless convention that adds nothing to the meaning. –  FumbleFingers Dec 24 '11 at 16:01
    
You lay a book on a table but lay out the dinner table. –  Kris Dec 24 '11 at 16:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Usually when applied to a verb involving speech, out involves the addressing of a group, normally a non-specific group, as in "anyone who will listen."

John spoke out when he saw injustice being done.

Mary shouted out for help.

The bailiff read out the charges against the defendant.

In other words, all who could hear were being addressed in each case.

Don't confuse "read out" with readout, however. As a noun, a readout is simply "a visual record or display of the output from a computer or scientific instrument." [NOAD]

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 Sometimes, setting out a great answer the right way with the right examples merits two up votes. –  Kris Dec 24 '11 at 16:25
    
While I think this is a good generalization (e.g. geek out or act out), I think there are other special cases. Like trim out, stall out, or place out. These seem to signify a removal or a finality, rather than the act signifying a group involvement. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 25 '11 at 13:06
    
@MerlynMorgan-Graham: The scope of my answer was limited to verbs involving speech, since those were the examples the OP used. With other kinds of verbs the out functions mainly as an intensifier, often implying completeness of action. –  Robusto Dec 25 '11 at 14:20

It's part of a Phrasal Verb, so it can have several different senses. Which sense is intended -- or understood -- depends on the verb involved, and the idiomatic context of its use. Almost all Phrasal Verbs are idioms, after all.

One sense that is available with out is, simply, 'outside, outwards', as in move out, sing out, cook out. Another is 'to completion', as in burn out, muck out, work out. More details, and more particles, and more phrasal verbs, are explained in the two Phrasal Verb links above.

share|improve this answer

The combination of read and out is called a phrasal verb. For read out, you can deduce what this phrasal verb means by knowing what read and out mean, as the other answers say. However, not all phrasal verbs are so easy.

For example, speak and talk are nearly synonyms, but to speak out means "to talk freely and fearlessly," while to talk something out means to "discuss something exhaustively" or to "resolve or settle something by discussion." (All definitions taken from the Free Dictionary.) And this isn't the same as talking somebody out of something.

To call something out or call out something is to say it very loudly, but to "call out the guard" ("the troops", "the Marines", etc.) means to "summon them", and to call somebody out is to "challenge them" (originally to a duel, but now used more generally).

You basically have to learn the definition of all these phrasal verbs, at least the ones where the meaning isn't clear from the meanings of the two components. You should think of the meaning of the original verb and the preposition/adverb as more of a guide or a mnemonic than as a way of deducing the meaning.

share|improve this answer
    
While I think phrasal verbs are a good assessment here, I think there are also patterns to those phrases. I don't think the currently accepted answer contains the only pattern, though it identifies one of them. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 25 '11 at 13:11

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.