pull your weight: meaning and explanation

When you are doing something as part of a team, you are pulling your weight if you are working as hard as you should be working, or contributing as much as the others in the group.

This expression is generally used in the negative, to say that someone is being lazy or not contributing much to a project. This person is not pulling their weight. In these situations, the other members of the group or team have to work harder to compensate for the lazy team member

This expression comes from the sport of rowing. Based on someone’s weight (i.e. their size) you can expect them to ‘pull’ or row with a certain amount of strength. If they contribute less than this, they are not pulling their weight (and their team mates will have to work even harder if they want to be successful).

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Scottish

, .
If team isn’t , you boss know .

About the sentence

…let your boss know straight away…

Straight away is a useful synonym for immediately.

Notice the useful structure to let someone know something, which means to tell someone something. e.g. I’ll give you a call to let you know that we’ve arrived safely.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: North America

A – I’m not going with anyone .

About the sentence

…a word of warning…

The phrase a word of warning is commonly used to introduce a warning. e.g. It’s a good film. A word of warning though, it gets a bit violent towards the end.

…I’m not going to put up with anyone…

You can get some practice with the phrasal verb to put up with someone here.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: England (London)

? ?
getting on project? Is everyone ?

About the sentence

…How are you getting on…

The phrasal verb to get on with something can be used to ask someone about the progress they are making with something. e.g. How are you getting on with your book? You didn’t seem to be enjoying it yesterday.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Almost everyone has experienced being part of a team which includes someone who doesn’t contribute as much as they should. What is your experience of this? What did you do about it?
  • Be totally honest – do you think there has ever been a time when you didn’t pull your weight?

Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash