“Cut off” generally refers to removing, separating, or interrupting something.


1.  “Cut off (something)” – (separable) To remove a part of something, using a sharp tool such as a knife.
  • “His finger was cut off in an accident and he was fortunate enough to get it reattached.”
  • “I’m going to need some help cutting the branches off.”
Similar expressions: “Cut off” or “Cut”

“Cut” is to break the surface or to divide something into smaller parts.

“Cut off” is to remove something completely.

  • “He cut off his finger.”
    This means he completely severed his finger so he’s missing one finger now.
  • “He cut his finger.”
    This means he cut the skin on his finger so he needs a band aid.
  • 2.   “Cut off (something)” – (separable) To stop providing or supplying something.
    • Cut off the enemy’s supplies and their survival is compromised.”
    • “If you’re unable to pay your bills on time, they won’t cut your electricity off if you contact them and work out an arrangement.”
    3.   “Cut off (someone/something) – (separable) To cause a person or place to become separate, or cause someone to be or feel alone.
    • “He became a recluse and cut himself off from society.”
    • “Some villages were cut off because of the flood.”
    4.   “Cut off (somebody/something)” – When a phone connection/line is disconnected.

    Using the active or passive voice can imply if the disconnection was accidental or intentional.

    a. Passive voice – accidental disconnection

    This scenario is beyond the control of either party. 

    • “My phone is low on battery, the line might cut off soon.”
    • “The line was pretty bad, we got cut off a few times.”
    b. (separable) Active voice – intentional disconnection

    Usually one party is responsible for the disconnection.

  • “We were arguing on the phone and then he cut the line off.
    This means he hung up the phone or intentionally disconnected the line.
  • Similar phrasal verbs: “Cut off” vs “Cut out”

    “Cut off” means the line is broken. 

    “Cut out” means there is interference on the line.

  • “You’re cutting out.”
    This means I cannot hear everything the other party is saying – either because there is static, or parts of words are missing.
  • “We were cut off.”
    This means the line was disconnected. 
  • 5.   “Cut (somebody) off” – (separable) To suddenly interrupt and prevent someone from continuing to speak.

    This is rude. 

    • “Will you stop cutting me off?”
    • “She has a bad habit of cutting off people when they’re speaking.”
    Similar phrasal verbs: “Cut off” vs “Cut in”

    “Cut off” implies intentionally preventing someone from continuing to speak.

    “Cut in” is just interrupting by saying something but doesn’t have the same intention of preventing someone to continue speaking.

  • “She cut him off while Wally was speaking.”
    This means she abruptly ended Wally’s talk and didn’t let him finish what he was saying. 
  • “She cut in while Wally was speaking.”
    This means she interrupted Wally by saying something – maybe with a comment or question.
  • 6. “Cut (somebody) off – (separable) To disinherit or stop someone from receiving their inheritance.
    • “He had no choice but to cut him off from his will.”
    • “You can’t just cut off your own son from your will.”
    Similar phrasal verbs: “Cut off” or “Cut out”

    “Cut out” can mean “to exclude someone from something” and is often used to talk about inheritances and wills.

    • “I heard he cut him out of his will after the last scandal.”
    • “My parents just told me I’ve been cut out of my grandfather’s will.”
    7.   “Cut (somebody/something) off” – (informal) To abruptly overtake another vehicle with a small amount of distance.

    This often happens without proper signalling and the vehicle being overtaken will often have to brake suddenly. This is very bad driving etiquette.

    • Cutting people off on the road are common in certain driving cultures.”
    • “There’s a six-car pile-up on the highway because some idiot tried to cut off a truck.”
    Similar phrasal verbs: “Cut off” vs “Cut in”

    “Cut off” implies that a vehicle blocked another vehicle’s pathway.

    “Cut in” is the proper and more common phrasal verb for abruptly overtaking another vehicle within an unsafe distance.

    • “Always pay attention while driving in case anyone tries to cut you off.”
    • “Always pay attention while driving in case anyone cuts in.”

    Original post: 1 October 2020