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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

to give/get the runaround

Idiom: to give/get the runaround; used as a verb

First example: Terry was in a car accident, but it wasn't his fault. He called the other guy's insurance company to get money for his medical bills. Unfortunately, the insurance company wasn't helpful at all. They gave Terry the runaround and never told him what papers he needed to submit to get his money. He finally had to hire a lawyer to talk to the insurance company.

Meaning: To give the runaround means to give unclear information or answers about something. In this situation, the insurance company wanted to avoid paying Terry for his medical bills. Therefore, they wouldn't answer his questions clearly about the forms he needed to turn in. This idiom is often used in situations where companies or official organizations are unclear or unhelpful.

Here is another example:

Second example: Maria knew she was the most qualified for the promotion that was available at her company. She was extremely disappointed when she found out Sam got the promotion instead of her. Maria tried to ask several managers why she didn't get promoted. None of them would answer her directly. She kept getting the runaround and never found out why she didn't receive the higher position.

Meaning: To get the runaround means to receive unhelpful, unclear information or excuses about something. In this case, Maria wanted to know why she didn't get a particular position in her company. The managers, who knew the reason, didn't want to tell her, so they gave a lot of excuses or avoided talking to her. The managers probably didn't want to hurt Maria's feelings; this is often the reason people get the runaround in situations like this.

This idiom is from LSI's book "Speaking Transitions," which is used in the level 4 Listening/Speaking classes. For more information, please visit

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