back down: meaning and explanation

If you back down, then you accept or admit that you are wrong about something, or you accept that you have lost an argument or fight. e.g. The argument went on all night, but my brother eventually backed down and apologised.

This phrasal verb can be used negatively to describe a situation in which someone will not admit that they are wrong or have lost an argument. They won’t back down. e.g. It was obvious that he had made a big mistake, but he wouldn’t back down.

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: Ireland

, .
He’s – he he’s , but to .

About the sentence

…He’s so stubborn

If someone is stubborn, then it is difficult to change their mind, attitude or position on something, even if they are probably wrong. This is synonymous with the word determined, but has more negative connotations.

…he knows he’s in the wrong…

If you say that someone involved in an argument is in the wrong, then you are saying that they are responsible for the argument or have done something bad or morally wrong. e.g. Sorry, but I’m not the one who is in the wrong here.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

, .
protests, the government reversed the public sector .

About the sentence

…the public sector pay cut…

A pay cut is a reduction in pay or salary. e.g. If I take the job it will mean a serious pay cut, but I’ll have a much better work-life balance.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

, .
manager knows he’s this, but he can’t losing face.

About the sentence

…without losing face…

When someone loses face, people lose respect for them, or their reputation is damaged. e.g. He should really just ask his parents for help with his financial problems, but he’s terrified of losing face.

Extra practice

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

  • Are you a stubborn person or do you back down when you know you are in the wrong?
  • Can you remember a time when someone refused to back down?

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