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burn out: meaning and explanation

If a fire ‘burns out’ then it stops burning because it has run out of fuel. e.g. The fire is going to burn out if we don’t add some more wood.

Burn out has a metaphorical meaning, which is used to say that someone is no longer able to work (or too exhausted to work effectively) because they have been working too much. The idea is that, like a fire which has died, they have used up all their resources. e.g. After 6 months of working 16 hour days, he completely burned out and had to take a long break.

This phrasal verb can be used as a noun to describe the condition of being exhausted from overwork: burn-out or burnout. e.g. It is very common for young entrepreneurs to suffer from burnout during the early years of their business.

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 (RP)

Paul .
Paul is going if he these .

About the sentence

…if he keeps working these hours

Notice the useful verb pattern to keep doing something, which means to continue doing something. e.g. How much longer are you going to keep pretending that there isn’t a problem?

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Wales

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America


Extra practice

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

  • Have you every suffered from burnout? What caused it, and what did you do to recover?
  • Why do you think burnout is becoming more common? Or do you think we are more aware of it now?

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

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