#106 – TO OWE TO

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To owe something to someone

Listen to the episode for the definitions and examples.


Hello there, you’re listening to “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. My name’s Luke Thompson and this is phrasal verb episode number 106 and this one is to OWE TO.

OWE TO or to owe something to someone, okay? How do you spell owe? Well, it’s spelt O.W.E. Now, normally just using this word on its own, you might say that you owe money. You owe money to the bank, for example. Or, you owe money to someone. For example, if someone lends money to you. If you borrow money from someone, let’s say, you borrow, you know, ten pounds from a friend, you might say to that friend later on “Oh, I still owe you ten pounds. I owe you ten pounds” or if you borrowed lots of money, let’s say you borrowed, you know, five thousand pounds from the bank in order to start a business you might say, “I still owe the bank five thousand pounds”. Okay? So, to owe money to someone. Okay?

But what about the phrasal verb to owe something to someone. It’s not just used for money, we can also use it for other things. For example, if you’ve had some success. So, here’s the first one, in terms of the phrasal verb, slightly idiomatic usage. You’ve had some success, and you want to say that it is not just you, you’re not the one who’s completely responsible for the success but your success is a result of other people or other things so, you could say that “you owe it all to someone”. For example, if you’ve just won an award, let’s say, it doesn’t have to be an award, it could be any kind of success, really, but, let’s use the example of an award ceremony. You’ve just won the Palme d’Or, which is like the biggest prize at the Cannes Film Festival, or you’ve just won an Oscar at the Oscars, the Academy Awards and in your speech, you say, “well, I’d just like to say that I OWE IT ALL TO my wife. Without her support I wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything”, or “I OWE IT ALL TO my parents”, or “I OWE IT ALL TO God for giving me the talent and the determination to continue”. That kind of thing. To… So, you mean that you OWE the success TO someone else. So, you’re not the one, who’s responsible for doing it, but something or someone else helped you to get it. Okay? “The company OWES all of its success TO its staff”, meaning the people who work for the company are the ones who’ve managed to make the company successful. So, in the company email from the managing director, the managing director would just like, would say at the end of the good year, you know, “We had a great year, we OWE IT ALL TO the hard work of our staff”. Okay? So, “I OWE IT ALL TO my wife”, for example. Okay? So, that’s the first one.

Second one, means that you feel like you should do something for someone. Like, you feel like someone else has… Someone else deserves, you feel like, you should do something, because someone else deserves it and you might say, for example, “I’m really ambitious, you know, I really want to make it successful. I want to make a success of myself. I just feel like I OWE IT TO my parents”. You know, “my parents are not with us anymore. They died a few years ago, but I’m so determined, I’m so ambitious to make a success of my life, because I feel like I OWE IT TO my parents” meaning that, you know, your parents always supported you and you want to make success. You want to make lots of money, or something like that, or get some success, because you feel like, you need to pay back some kind of debt to your parents. “I just, you know, I OWE IT TO my parents to try and make my career a success”, or, you know, another example, a couple of parents arguing, you know, there’s two people arguing. They feel they might split up. There’s a couple, a man and a woman who are married, and they argue all the time and they’re worried that their marriage is going to break up and they’re going to get divorced, and they have a conversation, a serious conversation, and they say, you know, “I really don’t want a divorce, let’s… Let’s try make it work. I think we OWE IT TO the children. We OWE IT TO our children, that means that we have some sort of responsibility to make the marriage work in order to save the children”. You know? Okay.

So, there you go. To OWE something TO someone. Alright? For example, this year again “Luke’s English Podcast” won the Macmillan Dictionary award for the best blog even though it’s not a blog, it’s a podcast and I would just like to say that I OWE it all TO my listeners. So, thanks very much if you voted for me. That’s the end of this phrasal verb episode. I’ll speak to you again soon. But for now it’s time to say goodbye. So, I will. Goodbye.

Wait a minute. I’ve just realised something at the end of this episode that there’s a fairly important thing that I forgot to add and that’s the expression OWING TO. OWING TO.

So, we had TO OWE something TO someone, but we also have the expression OWING TO and it’s something you might read in an email or you might write in an email and it means ‘because of’, for example, OWING TO a delay from our supplies, we’re unable to meet the demands of the market at the moment. So, we can’t send you the products that you need OWING TO a delay from our supplies. So, that just means ‘because of’ right? So, we can’t send you the products that you need owing to a problem from our suppliers. So that just means “because of”. :We can’t send you the products because of a delay, we can’t send you the products OWING TO a delay”. So, OWING TO could go at the beginning of the sentence. “OWING TO bad weather conditions the match had to be cancelled.” Slightly formal, a kind of thing you might write in a business email. I just thought I should add it at the end there.
Thanks for listening to the episode. This is the second time I’m saying goodbye to you and it’s definitely goodbye this time but I will speak to you soon in an another episode of “A Phrasal Verb a Day”. Thanks for listening. Bye!