I came across a line in a movie.

She wanted out of this dump. She wanted to start a new life.

It seems the sentence is missing to get/be/go. Is the sentence grammatical as it currently stands?

Since want is a transitive verb, it takes a direct object (noun/NP/to infinitive). The phrase out of this dump is adverbial. So is the sentence ungrammatical = informal in register?

  • 7
    You seem to be parsing this as [She wanted][out of this dump]. I’d probably parse it more like [She wanted out][of this dump]. – J.R. Jun 30 '18 at 18:05
  • 1
    @L.Moneta "want" is not only a transitive verb. Take for example: I want to leave early. I think "wanted out of" is an intransitive phrasal verb like these: The police were called to break up the fight. When the door is opened, it sets off an alarm. – aesking Jun 30 '18 at 18:19
  • 1
    "Want" is used intransitively here. "Out of this dump" is probably best analysed as a reduced clause, typically used in casual speech. In full it would be something like "She wanted [to be out of this dump]", where the bracketed element is a catenative complement of "wanted". – BillJ Jun 30 '18 at 18:42
  • 4
    To "want out of something/somewhere" is certainly idiomatic. But I tend to think of it as "She wanted[to get] out of this dump" i.e. an acceptable elision of part of the object clause. – WS2 Jun 30 '18 at 19:06
  • 1
    @aesking There’s never any object in a copula like those you just asked about. This is because there is no transitive verb to deliver its action to any object. There’s just a nominal acting as the subject on one side of the copula(r verb) and a predicative expression of one or another sort on the other side. The predicate can be another nominal (infinitives can be nominals) but can also be an adjective or adjective phrase, or a prepositional phrase. – tchrist Jun 30 '18 at 20:37

Macmillan Dictionary exemplifies the phrasal verb "want out" as intransitive in the following sentences:

Would you open the door? The dog wants out.

She wanted out of the jail cell so badly she started to scream.

"Of" is not a part of the phrasal verb as the phrasal verb "want out" can be replaced with "get out" in:

  1. He [got out] of jail
  2. He [want out] of jail

Note 2 is ungrammatical because it would have to be he wants or wanted (to signify a different tense), notice the difference between He wants out of jail and He wanted out of jail.

The expression is certainly idiomatic/informal but that doesn't necessarily warrant ungrammaticalness.

ODO cites:

Phrasal verbs can be intransitive (i.e. they have no object):

We broke up [two years ago].

They set off [early to miss the traffic].

He pulled up [outside the cottage].

The things in [] are not objects. They can be omitted and still be grammatically and semantically complete.

or transitive (i.e. they can have an object):

The police were called to break up the fight.

When the door is opened, it sets off an alarm.

They pulled the house down and redeveloped the site.


  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jul 4 '18 at 15:41
  • The reverse preposition works as well: "You're having a card game tonight? I want in." – Robusto Oct 30 '18 at 14:17

Sample sentence: She wanted out || of this dump||. That is my parse.

To want out is a phrasal verb meaning: to not want to be in a place or relationship. It can be followed by a prepositional phrase or not.

The opposite also exists: to want in, meaning: to want to be a part of something.

They were playing poker and I wanted in [to the game].

To want out + of this dump is a phrasal verb + a prepositional phrase.'

In English, you are in or out of a place or relationship. And you can want in or into a place or relationship.

The cat wanted out of the house. = The cat did not want to be in the house. or: The cat wanted to go out of the house.

For me: to want in/into or want out (to desire to come, go or be or the negative of that: Merriam Webster, intransitive) can be followed by prepositional phrases that act as a complement to the idiomatic usage of the verbs.

Intransitive verbs can be followed by a prepositional phrase or an adverb to add to the thought being expressed, but they can never be followed by a noun, which would act as the object of the sentence.

"of this dump" is a prepositional phrase that adds to the thought being expressed. Here, expressing the place or location from which relief is sought.


The OED includes it under their sense 13 of want - a "colloquial" form.

  1. intr. colloq. (orig. regional, esp. Sc. and U.S.). With adverb and ellipsis of the infinitive, as to want away, to want home, to want off, etc. To wish to go to or from a particular place; to wish to be in or out of a particular situation. Recorded earliest in to want in at Phrases 5a; see also to want out at Phrases 5b.

1979 New Pittsburgh Courier 4 Aug. (Entertainer section) 4/3 There are the two good ole boys from Atlanta who want in on the bust out.

2000 J. J. Connolly Layer Cake (2004) 222 We did do a bit of junior time together but I always wanted away.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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