In this episode, Andrew and Suzanne define and explain two phrasal verb expressions related to stopping: to peter out and to conk out. Join them as they chat about the meanings of these two expressions and how and when to use them!
Expressions included in the Learning Materials:
- A whole whack of something
- To be up to something
- To peter out
- To pour
- To dwindle
- To conk out
- The shop
- Can’t afford to do something
Andrew: Today we have a Catchword episode for you, and this is where we take two or three expressions and we explain them and define them and give you examples of how you can use them in conversation. And today we have two phrasal verb expressions that we are going to introduce to you. And what are those expressions, Suzanne?
Suzanne: They are: To peter out. Peter out.
Andrew: To peter out, yeah, and…?
Suzanne: And to conk out. To conk out.
Andrew: To conk out and to peter out, exactly. And so both of these expressions can be used when something stops. OK? It stops working or it stops functioning, or it stops operating; it just stops. And this is when we can use to peter out or to conk out.
Suzanne: But the big difference is that to peter out is more of a slow, gradual stopping, whereas conk out kind of happens all at once or all of a sudden. Bam. It just stops working.
Andrew: It just conked out.
Suzanne: Conked out.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. So they both deal with things that stop, but there is a difference in meaning between them. Peter out is gradual; conk out is immediate. And when we provide you with some examples here in a moment you’ll be able to see the difference. So, Suzanne, I have a question for you.
Suzanne: OK. Andrew: Yeah, I noticed a trend with these expressions. We have to peter out and to conk out, and I know there are other expressions too, like to fizzle out, to fade out, to black out. And I’m wondering, what does the out mean? Suzanne: Aha.
Andrew: What does out communicate in these phrasal verbs?
Suzanne: Right, so out is, in this case, signalling that something is ending, and peter is kind of explaining how it’s ending, right? And out is telling you that it is ending or disappearing.
Andrew: Yeah. So what the out means in all of these phrasal verbs is that something is ending. It just really emphasizes that something is coming to a conclusion, that it’s over, it’s done, it’s finished, it’s ending. Suzanne: Right. Andrew: Cool. Good. Thank you for answering my question.
Suzanne: But, any time.
Andrew: So, let’s get to our first expression for today, and it is to peter out.
Suzanne: To peter out.
Andrew: And so when something peters out, it stops. But it stops slowly or gradually, so it takes a little while to end and it sort of slows down and then eventually stops.
Suzanne: And it comes from slang from the US. In the 1800s, it was first used by miners, and it was used to describe mines that slowly became exhausted of coal; exhausted, in this sense, meaning that they ran out of coal. So the mines slowly petered out of coal.
Andrew: Mmhmm, exactly. I guess the miners were just down there in the caves and they were probably happy when the coal petered out because then they’d get to go back up to the surface.
Suzanne: Exactly, have some lunch.
Audio/Learning Materials: Culips English Learning Podcast