grammatical word: eat

whats eating you meditating on beach 2

As I’ve done in the past, today I would like to go over a common verb which has other meanings that many people don’t know about. Today, the verb is “eat”. Of course, everyone knows the main meaning of this word which is to consume food. However, we can also use it in three other ways:

1. for some kind of public vending machine or payphone to take money and then not work properly. For example:

That drink machine ate my dollar. Is there someone in the building who can get me my drink or my dollar back?

The payphone ate my coin and then disconnected me! I hate it when that happens!

2. for something to require a lot of money in order to maintain it. For example:

My car is costing me a lot of money. Between parking costs and gasoline, it’s eating a lot of my monthly paycheck.

Having kids is so expensive. After my wife and I had our son, the cost of taking care of him really ate through our savings.

3. for something to put someone in a bad mood. For example:

Edgar and Henry just left the room as soon as I said hello to them. What’s eating them?

I just heard Charlene tell her friend to shut up! What’s eating her?

If you look at the fourth example, you’ll see that I used “eat through”. When talking about something that is reducing our savings, we often add the word “through” to the verb “eat”.

In the final meaning of “eat” which is for something to put someone in a bad mood, we almost always use “eat” in the question form, What’s eating + someone. Please be careful about saying it directly to a person, as in “What’s eating you?”. This is very strong and could be offensive to the person you are talking to.



  1. Naoki Said:

    Hello Mike,

    I have a question that is about “eat someone alive”.
    Is this one of the expressions you talked about in today’s entry?
    Does this mean the person gets angry?

    • Hello.

      The expression to “eat someone alive” is an idiom that I didn’t talk about yesterday. It is used when we want to tell someone that another person will win against them or emotionally damage them. For example:

      At the tennis game on Saturday, I’m going to eat you alive. (the meaning is I’m going to beat you by a wide margin).

      If I were you, I wouldn’t work for Mr. Culver. He eats all of his employees alive. (the meaning is that he is very demanding and causes a lot of stress to his employees).

      Thanks for your question.


      • Naoki Said:

        Thank you Mike!
        That was very clear.

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