Thursday, 24 March 2016

Takeout or take out?

I recently saw a post in which someone was asking for clarification on some grammar advice. The advice simply stated that “takeout” was the noun, and “take out” was the verb. Makes sense.
But the woman was a little unclear on how to utilise this in a sentence, and it occurred to me that for many people these rules are still confusing. So, I’d like to elaborate and hopefully clear it up for anyone who might still struggle.

In the case of takeout or takeaway (you know, pizza and other convenient yummy stuff), it is so called because you are literally taking away, or taking out, the food. That is the action, the verb.
But when you want to tell someone that you're getting takeout, you don’t want to say “I took away some pizza” or “I went to take out Thai food”. That sounds awkward, so we just call it takeout or takeaway.
The action words are combined to create a noun.

If the words aren’t combined, it's likely they mean something different. If you see “take out” written with a space, it’s probably just someone taking out the trash, for example.

If it’s written as “takeout”, it’s pizza (or it should be).

You can "take out" your girlfriend for "takeout".
But “I got take out with my girlfriend” looks weird because it’s no longer a thing, but rather an action, which simply doesn’t belong in that particular sentence.

The same would apply to “pick up”, for example. You might go to “pick up the pickup truck”. You would not, however, “pickup the pick up truck”. One is an action, the other is a thing.

It's the same reason we write "handbag" instead of "hand bag", because the second one implies a bag made out of hands. In most cases (if not all), having a space allows the first word to describe the second word, changing the meaning entirely. Once they are separate, they interact differently. Only when they're brought together to make one word do they become the noun you wish to use.

There are probably exceptions - there always are - but these are the basics. Anything more obscure can usually be Googled or looked up in various style guides and dictionaries.

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