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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

to shell out

Idiom: to shell out; used as a verb

First Example: 
If you want a car like mine, you're going to have to shell out $23,000;  that's how much it cost me after taxes and fees.

Meaning: To "shell out" something means to spend a certain amount of money; the expression suggests that the amount is a large cost.  This idiom doesn't require a specific amount, such as when it is used in a question, but an answer will usually include a specific number, as in the following example.

Second Example:
   Andrew. The diamond on that ring you gave your girlfriend is huge!  How much did you have to shell out for that?
   Ben. Only $100...  The diamond is fake, but don't tell her that!

Here, Andrew thinks that Ben gave his girlfriend an expensive ring, so he uses the idiom "shell out," but Ben replies with a much smaller number. Notice that the modal "have to" is often used with "shell out" as in both examples above (however, the second example could be written without it).  In addition to questions, "shell out" can also be used with an expression to suggest a large number instead of an actual number, as in the following example:

Third Example: In order the keep the woman quiet after the accident, the theme park shelled out an obscene amount of money.  She'll never have to work another day in her life.

In this case, "obscene" means an outrageous amount that people would be shocked (and maybe even offended) to hear, and the use of "shell out" heightens the idea that the "obscene" amount was quite large.

This idiom is from LSI's book "Reading Savvy," which is used in the Level 5 Reading classes. For more information, please visit  

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