How much did that set you back? (Money phrasal verbs)

by Kate Woodford

Persley Photographics (c)/Moment/Getty
Persley Photographics (c)/Moment/Getty

This week we’re looking at the wealth of phrasal verbs in English that relate to money, including those used for having and not having money, those for saving money and those for spending it. Starting with a very common phrasal verb, if you pay off a sum that you owe to a bank or person, you give them all of it: I’m hoping to pay off the debt within two years.

As regards spending money, if you pay a lot for something, especially when you don’t want to, you may use the informal phrasal verb fork out: I’m not forking out fifty dollars for a ticket!

If you spend part of an amount of money that you have saved, you might say you dip into that amount: Unfortunately, I had to dip into my savings to pay for the repairs.

If you say that something sets you back a particular sum, you mean that it costs that amount:

It’s a nice car, but it’ll set you back thirty thousand pounds.

How much did that set you back?

Meanwhile, in UK English, someone who buys something expensive may be said to splash out: She splashed out on a fancy new camera.

Still with spending money, if you settle up with someone, you pay them the money that you owe them: You get the tickets, Evan, and I’ll settle up with you later.

If several people who are buying one thing together chip in (UK, informal), they all give some money towards it: We all chipped in and bought James a really smart coffee machine.

As for saving money, if you put away a sum of money, you save it, usually in a bank: He puts away a little every month.

Other ‘away’ phrasal verbs are used with this meaning, though they often have the extra meaning of ‘to hide’ or ‘to save secretly’. Salt away and squirrel away are two such phrasal verbs:

He’d salted away several thousand pounds over the years and no one knew.

She had a fortune squirrelled away.

Some phrasal verbs relate to having not enough money. Someone who scrapes by, only has enough money to pay for the basic things they need: Even with both of us working full-time, we only just scrape by.

With too little money, someone might decide to cut back on what they spend, by intentionally spending less: I’m trying to cut back on my expenses.

They might also borrow a sum of money from a friend to tide them over for a short period. To tide someone over is to supply someone for a short time with money: I gave her a hundred pounds to tide her over till she gets paid.

Finally, someone who comes into money, receives it after a relation dies: She came into a bit of money when her grandfather died.

13 thoughts on “How much did that set you back? (Money phrasal verbs)

  1. Pingback: How much did that set you back? (Money phrasal verbs) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (July 27, 2016) | Editorial Words

  2. Hello Kate, let me express my gratefulness for this useful post, these phrasal are usually used in everyday conversation and I’ve improve a bit more my vocabulary, thank you so much.

    However, I would like to ask you for help because I have not understood “sets you back” phrasal at all. Could you explain me that? With another example maybe!

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Javier! Thanks for your lovely feedback – it’s so nice to hear! Regarding ‘set you back’ perhaps it might help if you think of a sentence with the verb ‘cost’ in it, for example, ‘The trip will cost (you) a thousand Euros.’ Now replace ‘cost (you)’ with ‘set you back’, so ‘The trip will set you back a thousand Euros.’ It really just means ‘cost’ and is usually used about large sums of money. I hope that helps! All the best to you.

  3. Ivan

    Hi, Kate. You write really interesting and useful articles. I’ve enriched my vocabulary because of you. I only wanted to ask if you could place all phrasal verbs’ list in the end of the article in order to memorize without looking through the text every time?

    1. Kate Woodford

      Ivan, thanks for the lovely feedback! That’s a really interesting suggestion regarding the vocabulary. I’m going to discuss it with the team next week. All the best!

  4. Khairil

    Hi Kate thanks for your articles. I’m from Malaysia. Most of these words really useful and makes my daily usage vocab more richness. I’m agree with Ivan if you could listed the word at the end of the articles so easier for us to memorize it.

  5. vasudevan ragunathan

    Hi Kate. Thanks for this article and the various usage of various terms concerning money matters. Gee i never realized that there were so many . I have been using some myself and now i have a coulpe more that i can use in my daily conversations. Cheers. Devan from Malaysia

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