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 the boss is stressed, she always takes it out on the junior members of staff.

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.

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

Dictation #1

Accent: England (London)

it's tough but you wouldn't on me
I it's been a tough weeks but wish you wouldn't it on me

I know it’s been a tough few weeks but I wish you wouldn’t take it out on me

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.

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.

Discussion question

Write your answer to this question in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • 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?

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