Learn the many uses of ‘DOWN’ in English

You probably know that “down” is a direction in English. But more than just a preposition, “down” is a short word with a long list of usages. In this lesson, I will introduce you to many uses of the word “down”, including as a noun, an adjective, a verb, a phrasal verb, and several expressions. You will learn the meaning of “down a drink”, “track down”, “down to earth”, “downright”, “down with”, and more. These expressions are all common ways of using “down” that native English speakers use on a regular basis. Whether or not you watch and do the quiz at https://www.engvid.com/use-down-in-english/ comes down to you. But I’m down if you are!


Hello. I’m Gill at www.engvid.com, and today’s lesson is on the use of the word “down”. Okay. So, the word “down” appears in a lot of different ways, and it can be a preposition, which means in this direction – down; it can be a noun or an adjective; and it can be a verb and a phrasal verb. Okay? And also, as we’ll see in this column, it can be used in combination with other words to mean something specific. So, in this first half of the lesson we’ll just look at a few examples of that.

So, first of all, as a preposition-very simple-“down the hill”. I’m walking down the hill in this direction, or I’m going down the stairs in a building. Down the stairs. So, the opposite of “up”: “down”. Okay? So, that’s simple.

Then as a noun… “Down” as a noun can mean feathers. There are certain very soft feathers which you can put inside a quilt that you sleep under and they’re very… It’s very comfortable, very soft, very warm. So, “down”. From ducks in particular – the duck, the bird. Feathers are very soft, so a “down quilt” is a very soft, warm quilt. And then you can have the adjective that comes from that. If something is “downy”, “downy”, it’s very soft when you touch it. “Downy”. Okay. Maybe the feathers themselves. Right.

And then also as an adjective, coming back to the sort of preposition type of meaning, the “down escalator”. If you’re in a big department store with many floors, you… Usually you may have lifts that go up and down, you may have stairs that go up and down, but you could also have an escalator – an automatic, electric escalator where you just stand on the steps. Or you’re in a Metro, like in the London Underground or some other big city where they have they have the Metro, you have a moving staircase called an “escalator”. So, you can have the “down escalator” – the one that goes down; you can have the “up escalator” – the one that goes up. So, the “down escalator”. “Down” is used as an adjective to describe which escalator it is; it’s the one that goes down. Okay.

And then another use as an adjective: If somebody makes a “down payment” on something, they want to buy, for example, a car – if it’s an expensive item. It’s… another word for this is a “deposit”. Okay. A “deposit”. So, you might pay a 10% deposit on a car. So, that’s called a “down payment”, because you put the money down. The idea is you put the money down on the table, metaphorically, to show that you’re serious about buying the item, so that’s a down payment. And then you would pay the rest later when… when you collect the car, hopefully. So… if everything goes well. That’s a “down payment”. Okay. Right.

And then using “down” as part of a verb, an action: “To down a drink” is to drink… to finish a drink. Maybe if you’re in a hurry sometimes if you’re somewhere like a pub or a bar or a cafe and you have to go quickly, but you don’t want to leave half of your drink behind – you down your drink quickly, like this. It goes down into your stomach. So: “To down your drink” is to swallow it quickly. So, to swallow or to drink. To drink your drink quickly. Okay?

And then it’s used with the verb “to put”: “to put something down”. “I put my keys down somewhere, and now I don’t remember where. I put the keys down.” But also you can have this, again, as a noun: a “put-down”-“put” with a hyphen, “down” – a “put-down” is when somebody says something to make another person feel a bit small, and you… You would say: “Oh, dear, that was a bit of a put-down”, if someone has said something that sounded as if they were criticizing you, and made you feel about that big. “Oh, dear, that was a put-down. I’ll have to live with that. That person wasn’t very nice to say that”, whatever it was. So, a “put-down” is when someone says something that puts you down, metaphorically; pushes you down, like that. Okay?

And then as a phrasal verb: “to track down”, “to track something down”, or “to track somebody down” is to look for somebody and to find them. You look for them and you find them; “to track down”. Maybe someone who’s committed a crime, the police have to track them down and catch them. Okay? So, the “track” is like the pathway that you’re following to find that person. Okay. […]


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