Expression: To Scrape By

In today’s episode of Aussie English I teach you guys how to use the expression “To Scrape By”.

Expression: To Scrape By

G’day guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today’s going to be an expression episode, and it’s just started raining outside. So, I hope that’s not too loud in the background. It should be ok.

Um… Today’s expression is going to be “To scrape by”, “To scrape by”, and it has two different sort of definitions, two different instances where you may use this expression.

The first is to manage to live when you don’t have enough money or you don’t have a lot of money for the necessary things that you want in life, or um… other resources that you may need. So, if someone lost his job and his family is having to live on just the salary of his wife then you could say that “They are just managing to scrape by on his wife’s salary.” If they only just have enough money to get the food they need, the water they need, to pay the bills. They’re only just scraping by.

And the other definition of “To scrape by” is to manage with difficulty to get a successful result or to reach an acceptable standard. So, an example for this could be you’re studying really hard to pass an English exam and at the end of the exam when you get your marks back, when you get your score, it’s only 51% and to pass you just needed 50%. So, you could say that “You only just scraped by.”

So, that’s the two different definitions and I guess I’ve already given you some examples there, but I’ll run through a few more detailed examples. I’ll get a little more into how you can use these expressions.

So, the first two examples here that I’ll go through are talking about scraping by with regards to money that you earn. So, for example, in my case at the moment I’m studying my PhD five days a week and I’m not getting paid for that, and aside from that, in order to earn money, in order to be able to pay for bills, to be able to pay for the rent for the room that I live in, and then yeah bills like my electricity bill, my gas bill, my water bill and even the internet bill, everything like that, I have to work at a restaurant for between 12 and 16 hours a week. So, you could say that “I’m only just managing to scrape by. I’m only just managing to scrape by on 12 to 16 hours work a week. And I’m managing to scrape by on part work.” So, you’ll often hear that “Managing to scrape by ON something”, and I guess in the first sentence there where I said “I’m managing to scrape by” that’s more of a general sense of “I’m managing to pay for everything that I need. I’m managing to survive. I’m managing to live.” And then when I say, “I’m managing to scrape by ON something” it’s talking about say, in the second example there, “I’m managing to scrape by on 12 to 16 hours of work a week”. So, “By doing 12 to 16 hours of work a week I’m scraping by.”

So, another example could be that you have a pretty average job, you know, say you make 50-60 thousand dollars Australian every year. That’s probably the average income here for the average person. You’ve saved up a lot of money and you’ve taken a big loan out at a bank. So, you’ve asked a bank to loan you some money because you want to buy a really really expensive car because it’s just your favourite kind of car. You’ve always wanted one, and it could be, you know, a Ferrari, a Porsche, a Lamborghini. It’s definitely beyond your means of paying for this car easily. So, you can’t just, you know, you’re not making a million dollars a year so you can’t just buy this and it’s only a tiny portion of your yearly income. It’s way way way more than your yearly income, and that’s why you’ve had to get a loan. You bought the car and now you’re only just managing to pay for one, the car. So it’s taking a lot of your income in order to pay for the loan and to pay for the upkeep, the repairs of the car. So, “You’re scraping by paying for the car”. And then you could also say “As a result you’re scraping by paying for your food, paying for your rent, paying for your bills, and just in general you’re only just scraping by.” So, you’re only just able to afford to live after having bought this very very expensive car and paying for it.

So, that’s that first one of scraping by with regards to money and being able to afford to live or afford to buy the things that you need to live.

The next two examples are more talking about only just scraping by with regards to say an exam score or just just just being able to get into something like a team or something. So, we’ll go into the other two examples here guys where it’s more about just being able to get a successful result, you know, in the face of difficulty, in being able to reach an acceptable standard.

So, this time for example, say you’re trying to get a spot on a famous football team, say it’s Australian rules footy and you’re trying to get into the AFL, which is the main league, the AFL, as opposed to the VFL of the teams below the VFL. AFL, the Australian Football League, they’re the main teams. You’re trying to get a position on say Melbourne, the team Melbourne, The Demons, and there’s only twenty something spots on the team that are available. So, you’ve got to compete with potentially 100s of different guys in order to try and get a spot on this team. And say, all but one spot was filled on the team. So, they selected 19 of the 20 players that were going to be on the team and then finally selected you. You were the 20th selection. You only just got in. You could say, “I only just scraped by in the selection for the 20 spots on the football team.” Or you could say that “I only just managed to scrape through the selection”. And, you can often hear this phrase with “Through”, the word “Through” if it’s something like a selection that you have to go through. “You only just scraped THROUGH the selection.” So you could also say “I scraped by IN the selection” but you might also hear, “I also managed to scrape THROUGH the selection”.

And, ok, say the last example here, you’re competing in the Olympics, say in a sport like boxing or sprinting, it could be swimming, and say that the competition is set up in a way that it is a knock-out style. So, every time someone loses they get knocked-out of the competition and whoever ends up winning hasn’t lost a single time. So, it’s a knock-out style tournament, or a knock-out style competition. So, say you get into the finals. You’ve won every single one of your boxing fights or you’ve won every single one of your races. You’ve got into the finals and you only just win, you know, by a second or by a certain number of points. You’ve only just managed to win but you get gold medal and you’re the world champion. You could say that “I only just scraped by to get into the finals. I only just scraped through into the finals. I only just scraped through the finals to win in the end. I just scraped through to win a gold medal.” So, that’s how you would use this phrase, “To scrape by” or “To scrape through”.

And yeah, let’s do some listen and repeat exercises quickly guys. So, listen and repeat after me:

I’m managing to scrape by.

You’re managing to scrape by.

He’s managing to scrape by.

She’s managing to scrape by.

We’re managing to scrape by.

They’re managing to scrape by.

So, that’s the episode for today guys. I’ll try and keep it short and sweet. We’ll end it there, and I’ll chat to you soon. All the best!

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