"The economic surplus can be trimmed away if you lower the price."

I know that I can use the word 'eliminate', but I recently came across 'trim away' and I was wondering if it could be used.

Thank you.


Dear Ann225,

Trim away is perfectly legitimate here and adds idiomaticity to this piece of economic discourse. This phrasal verb is so common that it has found its way into the Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's English Dictionary (among others). The literal definition goes like this (just to state the obvious):

If you trim away or trim off parts of something, you cut them off, because they are not needed.

As human beings, we are prone to thinking in metaphors (Metaphors We Live By, remember?), and this example is precisely that of a metaphor.

Andriy Lapin


I don't understand what you are trying to say.

Who is 'you'? We usually use the term 'economic surplus' if we are talking about governments.

Can you try to say it another way?

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I’m sorry if I caused any confusion.

I was referring to ‘Consumer surplus’ (the supply can’t keep up with the demand) or ‘Producer surplus’ (a surplus in supply indicating high prices).

By ‘you’ I meant a student who was simply drawing a graph.

Thank you both for your answers. Emotion: smile

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I was reviewing a few recent answers, and I noticed that the term 'phrasal verb' was mentioned by a contributor.

My advice to you is to avoid it since the term 'phrasal verb' is a misnomer. For example, in "trim away", the verb is just "trim".

"Trim away" is not a constituent at word level: it’s a verb phrase. Verb is a word category, like noun, adjective, etc., and it’s trim that is a verb: this is the word that takes verbal inflections. So we have [1] not [2]:

[1] The economic surplus can be trimmed away.

[2] *The economic surplus can be trim awayed.

Since that contributor was me, I'd like to weigh in on this.

I think your comment is misleading as it narrows down the definition of a phrasal verb to what you think is true. Here's my proof, among many others that I can post here (this particular one is especially fitting since we're posting on a forum for students of English). If Collin's Cobuild Advanced Learner's English Dictionary is not good enough for you, I wonder what is. Your sources are welcome, too.

(On a side note, BillJ: talking about 'idiomatic prepositions', it's hard to hit a moving target.)