I'm a gen-X native Australian English speaker and am listening to a YouTube video by a millennial native Australian English speaker in which he uses "to rent out" to refer to the person paying for the use of a service or infrastructure.

As a language nerd it sounded wrong to me, but I'm not certain, and checking various online dictionaries hasn't resolved it though some other online forums seemed to have some support both for my feeling, and that both are right. The third possibility is that this is a recent change in English usage in the last 20 to 30 years.

My instinct is that the owner offers it "out" so "out" fits for the owner providing it. But when I thinking about it "out" seems to have some similar usages to "up" in phrasal verbs indicating completeness or totality, in which "rent out" might be similar to "eat up" indicating the person is paying for use of the entire thing, not sharing with other renters.

Since I trust the contributors to this site more than other English forums I'm interested in your expert opinions and insights. Which use/uses is/are correct? Has it always been this way or is it undergoing change?

Here's the exact quote from the video:

Worldcom didn't build landline cables or cellphone towers, but instead would rent out this infrastructure from other companies.

(Emphasis added by me.)

  • 1
    What's the exact quote?
    – Laurel
    May 22 at 2:20
  • 1
    It sounds as if the two options in your question are equivalent. The owner offers others to pay to use and taking him up on the offer another pays him to use it as stated. The question needs an example or other context. We are happy to help.
    – Elliot
    May 22 at 4:46
  • 2
    No, sorry, I’m just going by the text you posted. I think it’s ambiguous. “Rent out” usually carries the notion that the subject of the clause is the lessor (‘owner’), but it is also used as an intensifier of sorts when the thing being rented is the whole of what is on offer: “We rented out the whole hall for our event.” This parallels usage such as “We blocked out the whole week for the event.”
    – Lawrence
    May 22 at 6:04
  • 1
    @Lawrence I know the OP is Australian, though I'm not sure where you are speaking from. However in Britain I would not expect to see "rent out" as used in the example you have given. And it surprises me that it would be used like that in any mainstream English-speaking country. "Blocked out" or "Took out" - yes. But "They rented out the hall" is telling me that "they" are the people collecting the rent - not the ones paying it.
    – WS2
    May 22 at 23:28
  • 1
    @Lawrence I've lived in Australia, albeit long before there were such people as millennials, and I'm surprised. So if someone said "we've rented out the house" it could mean they were living in it? Must be confusing for estate agents.
    – WS2
    May 23 at 6:14

This is probably not correct usage; a verification in an online up to date¹ dictionary shows that "out" is used only in the case when "rent" means "receiving" money in return for allowing someone to use your property, and at that it is an optional particle.

¹ The dictionary used, from which is taken the following reference, results from a new release in March 21

1 [transitive, intransitive] to regularly pay money to somebody so that you can use something that they own, such as a house, a room, some land, etc.
♦Are you looking to buy or rent?
rent something to rent a house/an apartment to live in rented accommodation/housing/property
♦ The property is available to rent on a short-term lease.
♦ We're looking for a house to rent in the area.
rent something from somebody
♦ Who do you rent the land from?

2 [transitive] to allow somebody to use something that you own such as a house or some land in exchange for regular payments
rent something (out)
♦ We rented our house out for a year when we went abroad.
♦ She bought a three-bedroom flat with the objective of renting two rooms.
♦ He is making a profit from renting out the property.
rent something (out) to somebody
♦ He rents rooms in his house to students.
♦ The land is rented out to other farmers.
♦ She agreed to rent the room to me.

I rather believe that you can trust your instinct and that the somewhat confusing word context is more likely to be at the root of an error in that speaker's English. An additional fact that tends to confirm this use of "out" is what can be read at the entry for this adverb in The SOED.

(SOED) 2 Expr. motion or direction away from oneself, a center, a familiar place, the shore, etc., esp. to a remote point, to sea, to war, etc. Now also spec. (of a boat, train, post, etc.) going out, departing. [since] Old English b From one's control or possession into that of others [since] Late Middle English.

in the same entry is still found the following.

6 To an end, completely, thoroughly, fully, to the utmost degree. Middle English.

Nevertheless, "2b" seems to prevail and coincide nicely with the sense in n° 2 of OALD.

Remark: It is to be noted that this verb is not considered to be a phrasal verb, at least not in OALD.

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