Burn off

To “burn off” means some type of fire or heat burns something until it’s gone.

Today's story: Gates of Hell
Explore more: Lesson #442
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Burn off

Today’s English expression is a phrasal verb: burn off. There are two similar ways to use “burn off.” Here’s the first way: some type of fire or heat burns something until it’s gone. And that’s how you heard me use it before. When the scientists realized that gas was coming out of that huge crater in Turkmenistan , they set it on fire so that it would burn off. They thought there was just a little gas buried there, and if they lit it on fire, all the gas would burn off. They thought there would be no gas left because it would all burn. Then the fire would go out, and that’s it. They thought it would burn off.

But it did not burn off. Oh, it burned. But it did not burn off. Why not? Because when we use “burn off,” it means to burn until something is gone.

A landfill is where your garbage goes after they take it away from your house. Did you know that landfills release gas like methane and carbon dioxide? These are greenhouse gases that can warm the atmosphere. It’s better to burn off the gas from a landfill than to simply release it into the atmosphere. And some landfills can generate electricity from burning off the gas that the landfills release.

Here’s another common way to use “burn off.” The fog usually burns off by about mid-morning. Now listen, the fog does not catch on fire; that’s impossible. But the heat of the sun causes the fog to disappear. So this is a case where we can use “burn off” because the heat causes the fog to totally disappear. So when we say the fog burns off around mid-morning, we mean that the sun causes the fog to go away by about mid-morning.

The other way to use it is to refer to using up your personal energy. It’s common to say you burn off calories or burn off energy. Did you pack on any pandemic pounds? If so, you might be looking to burn off some of those extra pounds. That means, you’re looking to eliminate some of those extra pounds (or burn off some of that extra fat) that you may have added during those most stressful days of the pandemic.

You can also burn off calories. I mentioned that I’m spending the month here in Mexico City and the local specialty is “tacos al pastor.” That’s marinated pork with pineapple, onions, cilantro, and as much salsa as my gringo taste buds can tolerate. This is not a lean and healthy choice. But neither will I deny myself. So I need to find a way to burn off those extra calories. Luckily, I don’t have access to a car here, so I’m walking all over the place, grocery store, coffee shop, gym, shopping, everything. I’m walking everywhere, so I can burn off the extra calories I’m getting from my tacos al pastor.

Do you have one of those trampoline places in your town? Do you know what those are? It’s like a big indoor play area for kids and they have trampolines, one after another, where kids can jump up and down. That is the perfect place for kids to burn off some energy. It’s safe and the kids love it.

So use this phrasal verb to say you’ll burn off energy, burn off calories, burn off fat, or burn off pounds…and I suppose you could say burn off kilograms, too.

Quote of the Week

Here’s a quote from Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick. This quote is actually from the book. He says, “If you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it.” You all know, if you’ve been with us long enough, that I love Mexico and one thing I love about the capital city is how much great food there is from all over the country. I love this quote: “If you can get nothing better out of the world, [at least] get a good dinner out of it.” That can help remind us of simple pleasures, right?

See you next time!

That brings us to the conclusion of lesson number 442. Remember, the full lesson resources are online at PlainEnglish.com/442. Today’s video lesson is going to be about how to explain something complicated by going back to basics. You’re going to learn how to take a complicated issue, or something that seems confusing, and explain it in simple terms. That’s in today’s video lesson for Plain English Plus+ members.

Remember, Plain English Plus+ is our membership program for listeners who are really serious about upgrading their English. We help you improve your listening, speaking, and vocabulary with a huge library of extra lessons and tons of practice exercises. You can learn more by visiting PlainEnglish.com/Plus .

That’s it for today; see you on Thursday, when I’ll give you my verdict on the Van Gogh immersive experience.

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Story: Gates of Hell