call off: meaning and explanation

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

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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).

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)

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

About the sentence

…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.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Ireland

, .
several staff members , we have but today's meeting.
to several staff members being , we have no but to off today's meeting.

About the sentence

…we have no choice but to…

The phrase “we have no choice but to + verb” is a formal way of saying that you only have one option – you have no other choice.

This often sounds quite regretful – you probably don’t want to do it, but there is no other option. e.g. Johnny’s an excellent employee, but after his behaviour at the staff party we have no choice but to fire him.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

. ?
I'm we're not be ready . Maybe just whole thing ?
I'm we're not to be ready in . Maybe we just the whole thing ?