call off: meaning and explanation

The phrasal verb to call something off means to cancel something (e.g. an event or a meeting).

If you want to focus on the thing that is cancelled, we can use this phrasal verb in the passive, e.g. The party was called off at the last minute.

This is a separable phrasal verb – the object can go in the middle of the phrasal verb (I called the meeting off) or at the end (I called off the meeting). If the object is a pronoun, it must go in the middle (I called it off), not at the end (I called off it).

This phrasal verb can also be used for cigarettes, e.g. Would you mind putting out your cigarette? You aren’t allowed to smoke here.

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

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

Jane . .
Jane serious wedding. She even .
Jane having serious doubts the wedding. She even call it .

…she might even call it off

Might even do something is used introduce something which is unlikely but still possible or is being considered. e.g. The traffic isn’t as bad as I expected so I should be there on time. I might even be a bit early.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Have you ever had to call something off at the last minute? What happened?
  • Can you remember a time that you were disappointed or angry because something which you had been looking forward to got called off?

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