put off: meaning and explanation

to put something off = to postpone or delay something.

When you delay doing something because you’re too busy or because you don’t want to do it, you are putting it off.

If you want to specify that you are delaying something until a specific day/time, you can use the ‘to put sth off until/to + time’. e.g. I’m too tired to do my homework, so I’m going to put it off until tomorrow.

A more formal synonym for ‘to put something off’ is to procrastinate. e.g. You need to stop procrastinating and get on with your essay!

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

Dictation #1

Accent: English (RP)

I'd talking got to I couldn't any .
I'd avoiding talking her but it got to stage where I couldn't it off any .

…I’d been avoiding talking to her

The past perfect continuous (I had been avoiding talking to her) is used here to describe an ongoing action in the past before another action in the past (I couldn’t put it off any longer).

e.g. I had been talking to him for 10 minutes when I suddenly realised who he was.

Discussion questions

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

  • Can you think of a time when you had problems or got in trouble because you had put something off for too long?
  • The photo on this post is of laundry hanging out to dry in Venice. I chose it because I always put off doing the laundry until I have almost nothing left to wear. Is there something that you always put off doing?
  • Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. Do you have a similar saying in your language? Do you follow this advice?

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I always put something off because I’m someone really distracted and a procrastinator , but I can’t remember if I have already had problems because of it
There’s a similar saying in my language and it says the same thing. I try to follow it, but it’s kinda hard

Tanya
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Tanya

Well, I am also a big procrastinator 🙁 Mostly I put my work off and then have to finish it at night or the next day when I want to sleep or have another tasks 🙁 Even now instead of finishing my work I am here 🙂

About the quote, I always joking saing don’t put off until tomorrow what you are not going to do even then 😉

Mari
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Mari

Right now I can’t think of a time when I had problems because I had put something off for too long. But I struggle everyday not to put things off. In my opinion, I think that the habit of putting things off is more painful than the habit of getting things done on time. However, I don’t know, but whenever I have a big responsability, like giving a speech at a meeting, I always dream of being there with no preparation at all and everything turns out a disaster because of the habit of putting things off. So the fear… Read more »

MILAGROS
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MILAGROS

WHAT I´VE PUT OFF MOST IS THE IRONING ´CAUSE I HATE DOING IT.
ONCE I PUT IT OFF UNTIL I HAD NOTHING TO WEAR.
I USED TO PUT MANY THING OFF EVEN WHEN I HAD TIME TO DO IT UNTIL I HEARD HOW MUCH IMPORTANT IS TO BE DISCIPLINED

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