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rip off: meaning and explanation

The phrasal verb to rip someone off is a useful conversational phrasal verb with a couple of different meanings. Note that this is quite an informal phrasal verb, so it’s best for more casual contexts.

  • to rip somebody off = to overcharge somebody

If you feel that someone has charged you too much for something, then you can say that they have ripped you off.

It’s most common to use this phrasal verb in the passive voice (to be/get ripped off), to focus on the person who has overpaid (this might be because it is obvious who overcharged us, or that the victim of the high cost is more important to us).

e.g. I always worry about getting ripped off when I get taxis in other countries.

It’s also very common to use this phrasal verb as a noun (a rip-off) when describing the thing that is too expensive.

e.g. Cinema popcorn is such a rip-off.

e.g. I don’t think the aquarium should charge so much for a ticket. It’s a bit of a rip-off considering how small it is.

  • to rip sth off = to steal/copy an idea from someone

If someone rips off your idea, then they have copied or stolen it from you.

e.g. He’s a billionaire now, but apparently he ripped off the idea for his first business from his college roommate.

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

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: North America

. -.
I'd restaurant . It's -.

About the sentence

…I’d steer clear of that restaurant…

To steer clear of something means to avoid something.

e.g. Try and steer clear of John today. He’s in a terrible mood for some reason.

…if I were you…

The structure if I were you, I would… is a second conditional used to give advice or recommendations.

e.g. If I were you, I’d start looking for another job.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Scotland

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Australia


Extra practice

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

  • Can you think of an example of something which is a rip-off?
  • Can you remember a time you got ripped off?

Photo by Corina Rainer on Unsplash

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