take it out on someone: meaning and explanation

The expression to take something out on someone is used when we treat someone badly because we feel angry, tired or stressed, even though they haven’t done anything wrong. e.g. When Tim had had a bad day, he tended to take it out on his children.

When we feel angry, we sometimes direct the negative feelings at friends or family just because we need to release them. Our friends and family are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we are angry and we take it out on them. If you’re the victim in this situation, you can use this expression to point out the fact that you’re being treated unfairly by saying something like: Please don’t take it out on me.

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: England (London)

it's tough but you wouldn't on me

About the sentence

…it’s been a tough few weeks…

The present perfect (“it has been a tough few weeks”) is used here because we are talking about an unfinished or unspecific time period (recently, or up to now). If we used past simple (“it was a tough few weeks”) we would be talking about a specific or finished time period, e.g. last month, or the period before the end of university.

…I wish you wouldn’t take it out on me…

We use I wish + subject + would when we make a wish about something that someone else is doing, often because it is annoying, e.g. I wish those people would stop talking – I can’t hear the film.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

, .

boss , she always the junior .

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Scotland

. .

Sorry . didn't you.

About the sentence

…Sorry I snapped

The verb to snap (at someone) means that you speak to someone angrily, and that this happens suddenly. e.g. It’s very rude of you to snap at me like that when I’m trying to help.

Extra practice

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

  • Think about a time when you were angry, stressed, tired or upset, and you took it out on someone. Who did you take it out on? What happened? How did they feel about it? Did you apologise?