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The English We Speak

Intermediate level

Eke out

Episode 220110 / 10 Jan 2022


When you need to get just enough of something to survive, what are you doing? We have the perfect phrase to describe making the most of what you’ve got left.


Welcome to The English We Speak. I’m Jiaying.

….and hello, I’m Neil. Jiaying, there’s a bit of problem.

Oh no, what’s wrong? 

We’ve almost run out of teabags – there’s just one left! What are we going to do?

Don’t panic, Neil. We’re just going to have to eke out the last one and share the teabag.

‘Eat out’?


Are you OK? Have you seen a mouse? 

No, Neil. ‘Eke’ – to ‘eke out’ means to make the supply of something last a bit longer, by using it carefully. It’s what you do when you only have a small quantity of something, and you want it to last as long as possible.

Like our last teabag. I’m not sure if eking out this last teabag will make the tea taste very good.

Well, go and find out while we eke out some examples…

Because of the storm, we had to eke out food supplies before we could get to the shops again.

Our crops have failed this year so we can hardly eke out a living.

I’ve lost my job, so I need to eke out what savings I have to survive.

This is The English We Speak from BBC Learning English and we’re hearing about the phrasal verb ‘to eke out’ which means to make the limited supply of something last a bit longer, by using it carefully. So, Neil, how is the tea?

Like dishwater.

Oh dear, I think you need to go to the shop and buy some more.

Do I have to? Couldn’t we just eke out this script for a little longer?

Sure. Bye.


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