How to use “out of”

“If you do things out of time, they are weird.”

Robyn Hitchcock, an English singer-songwriter and guitarist

“Out of” is a preposition, so it can be used before a noun, a noun phrase or a pronoun, connecting it to another word. Here are some examples:

She let him out of the house.

This building is made out of stone.

We have to make our choice out of these 10 books.

I did it out of curiosity.

He is out of work and can’t afford the trip now.

“Out of” is used in all the above sentences but it conveys different meanings in all of them. Let’s start with the first sentence and the fist meaning of the preposition under analysis:

Meaning 1.

When you use “out of”, you mean that something/somebody is no longer in some place/condition:

She let me out of the room.

This cork won’t come out of the bottle.

Sometimes I simply can’t drag myself out of bed in the morning.

I am out of town till Friday.

Luckily, she is out of danger.

Meaning 2.

“Out of” is used when you want to emphasize the substance from which something is made:

It’s made out of wood, not plastic.

The dress was made out of velvet.

! Note that we use “made of” when it is obvious what substance has been used to make something (e.g. “The castle is made of sand”). And we use “made from” to say what ingredients have been used (e.g. “Bread is made from flour, water and yeast”).

Meaning 3.  

“Out of” can mean “from among (a number)”:

Nine out of ten people said they disliked the film.

Nobody got 100 out of 100 in the test.

Meaning 4.  

“Out of” can mean “because of” and show the reason why somebody does something:

I asked this question out of curiosity.

He hurts you out of envy.

He took the job out of necessity, not because he really liked it. He simply had no choice.

Meaning 5.  

“Out of” can be used to describe the origin of something:

It’s like your dress is out of the 18th century.

I paid for the trip out of my savings.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing computer games.

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COMMON PHRASES AND IDIOMS WITH “OUT OF”

Here is the list of phrases with “out of” which are frequently used and which you’d better memorize because some of them are not subject to the rules above:

Phrase Meaning Example
Out of sight, out of mind (proverb) when something/someone can’t be seen, it is easier to forget this thing or person He forgot her soon after she left for London. Out of sight, out of mind.
Out of it 1.       not conscious of what’s going on around you as a result of taking alcohol/drugs;

2.       unhappy because you are not involved in what’s happening

1.       She was lying in her bed, totally out of it.

2.       I hate feeling out of it.

Out of one’s mind/head extremely silly You are out of your mind wasting your life like that!
Out of the/a blue sky =

Out of the/a clear blue sky

as a complete surprise His mood changed out of a clear blue sky.
Out of work / out of a job Unemployed He is out of work, so don’t ask him to lend you some money.
Out of action temporarily unable to engage in a certain activity; not working A heart attack put him out of action.
Out of character not characteristic of somebody You know it’s out of character for me. I usually don’t act like that.
Out of order (of a device) not working properly or at all The elevator is out of order. We are waiting for the elevator operator to fix it.
Out of service not available for use The elevator is out of service. Perhaps, it’s being cleaned.
Out of touch 1.       lacking up-to-date knowledge or information;

2.       not being in contact with someone

1.       He seems out of touch with recent economic thinking.

2.       I am out of touch with my former classmates.

Out of money short of money I am out of money and I can’t borrow you any, I am sorry.
Out of time at the wrong time or period I felt that I was born out of time.
Out of luck not lucky I am always out of luck! I can’t stand it!
Out of breath gasping for air, typically after exercise He arrived on the top floor out of breath.
Out of control no longer possible to manage The fire is burning out of control.