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Pay off: meaning and explanation

  • One meaning of the phrasal verb to pay something off is to pay a debt in full, to pay back everything you owe.

Here’s an example (North American accent):

, .
your finances , first priority credit cards.

About the sentence

…get your finances under control…

If you get something under control, then you take action to make it more manageable and not out of control.

e.g. After several hours, the fire brigade finally got the fire under control.

Here’s another example (with a slight London accent):

  • Here’s another meaning of this phrasal verb – if something you do pays off, then it results in success or good results. We are thinking of the thing that we do as an investment (e.g. hard work, effort, spending time on something) or a gamble (e.g. taking a risk on something). Here are some examples (the first in a Welsh accent, and the second in an RP accent):
  • Note that we can use to pay off negatively (it didn’t pay off), to say that something you did resulted in failure (this is example is also in an RP accent):
  • A third meaning of this phrasal verb, to pay someone off, means to give someone money to stop them saying or doing something, or to get rid of them. Here’s an example in an Australian accent:

Extra practice

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

  • Have you ever set a long-term goal that required dedication and hard work to achieve? How did it feel when your efforts finally paid off?
  • Have you ever had to pay off a debt to someone else? How did you go about doing it, and did it affect your relationship with that person?
  • Can you think of any situations where paying someone off is considered acceptable or even necessary?

Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

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