Archive for May 6, 2011

separable phrasal verb: brush off

This week’s phrasal verb is “brush off”, and we can use it in two different ways in English.

1. to not worry about someone’s negative comment about us. For example:

That guy called me fat, but I just brushed it off. I don’t care what he thinks.

I know that Ned can say awful things to you, but you should try to brush them off. It’s not worth getting upset over.

There’s a rumor going around that Bill and Sarah are getting a divorce, but they just brush it off.

2. to ignore someone or refuse to have a long conversation with them. For example:

I went up to Sue to say hello, but she just brushed me off. She’s such a snob!

What’s wrong with Paul? I asked him for his help, but he brushed me off by saying he was really busy right now.

Ever since Karen was promoted, she just brushes off all the people she used to work with. I don’t like her anymore.

So, the first meaning for “brush off” is positive, but the second meaning is negative. With the second meaning, the person who is brushing off another person can either ignore them completely, as in the first sentence, or they can quickly make an excuse to leave the conversation as soon as possible, as in the second sentence. With the third sentence, it’s unclear if Karen is ignoring people completely or just talking to them as little as possible.

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