I am already aware that a preposition after a verb turns it to a phrasal verb, which happens to almost have a completely different meaning from the verb alone. However, I noticed a very frequent usage of "out" which in many cases seems to me to be kind of redundant, and those are not meant as phrasal verbs, as far as I know.

For example, why saying: "hear me out" instead of just "hear me", or "help me out" instead of "help me" and so on?

There are also other cases like "put your hands out in front of you" or "turn your hands out externally" etc. suggesting an "outward" meaning.

So, why is the preposition "out" so widespread in English?

closed as too broad by Drew, Chenmunka, TimLymington, Dan Bron, Mitch Sep 25 '15 at 20:54

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  • Your four examples show four different meanings of out: perhaps some more research in a comprehensive dictionary would help. – TimLymington Sep 25 '15 at 17:14

Your premise is wrong. Some prepositions and some adverbs combine with some verbs to form phrasal verbs. There are many phrasal verbs with out (which is not a preposition in standard English) - give out, look out, leave out. It's also not always the case that the meaning is unobvious, though it often is.

In hear out, the out adds a sense of completeness - Hear me out doesn't just mean "listen to me", it means "listen to my whole statement or argument".

In help out the difference is more subtle - it implies not just being of assistance, but becoming a participant in the activity.

As you say, in put your hands out [in front of you] it has a spatial meaning: this is not an instance of the phrasal verb put out.

As to why - such questions are almost never answerable. That's how English is. Up is another very versatile adverb.

  • It is also curious how seemingly antonymous prepositions can complement the same verb with little or no difference in meaning: close down and close up, for instance. – Brian Donovan Sep 25 '15 at 0:41
  • Thanks for the useful answer and pardon my ignorance! So I guess that the sense of completeness added by the word in those cases can be generally extended each time such an instance presents itself, am I right? – Marco Sciortino Sep 25 '15 at 19:19
  • By the way, according to Cambridge Dictionary, "out" can also be a preposition: dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/out – Marco Sciortino Sep 25 '15 at 19:21
  • You are right that the COD does list it as a preposition, in several sections; but there is only one example of it ("out the window") and many people would regard that as a non-standard form of "out of the window". – Colin Fine Sep 26 '15 at 10:20

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