A few weeks ago, I was going over a textbook unit on housekeeping and chores with an adult student. She picked up on something that went totally unaddressed in an otherwise pretty solid textbook: the many colloquial variations (American) English has of the verb throw. Within just one lesson the following expressions came up:

  • throw away/throw out
  • throw on [the nightstand, the chair, etc.]
  • throw in [the laundry, the microwave, the sink.]

And there was the opportunity for even more! To throw on some pajamas and relax; to throw together a quick dinner when you come home from work. (It’s arguable whether or not throwing a party belongs in a unit on keeping house.)

When the fellow in the listening exercise mentioned “throwing [his] wallet and keys on the nightstand,” she frowned. “‘Throw’? That’s not good. He should be careful.”

We talked for a couple of minutes about how throw can also mean “put somewhere carelessly.” The Online Etymology Dictionary, oddly, does not provide a history of that particular usage. (Throw up for “vomit” is actually older than I was expecting: first recorded in 1732!)

Anyway, here’s an incomplete collection of different ways we use throw in English as part of a phrasal verb, ranked roughly from most common to least, according to my own arbitrary impressions.

Friendly reminder that throw is a little irregular: today I throw, yesterday I threw, I have thrown.

throw out/throw away:* to put something in the garbage or otherwise get rid of something. Can you throw out the packaging? // Don’t throw away those plastic containers! I recycle them. **

throw up: to vomit. I shouldn’t have eaten at that cheap seafood restaurant. I feel like I’m going to throw up.

throw [something] on: to quickly put on a piece of clothing. We’re running late, so just throw something on and let’s go! **

throw [something] in [something]: ** to carelessly put something in a container. Dinner’s mostly ready, just throw it in the microwave to heat it up. 

throw [something] together: to prepare something quickly, often without trying too hard. Jim threw his presentation together at the last minute, so it didn’t go very well.

throw a party: to have a party. Erica’s throwing a party this weekend. Are you coming?

throw in [something]: ** to provide something extra in a sale. The cable company threw in three free months of service when we signed the contract.

throw in [a remark, a comment]: ** to say something careless or thoughtless in a conversation. Out of nowhere, he threw in a nasty remark about Harry’s cooking.

throw one’s self into [something]: to work hard on a project. Anita really threw herself into studying Japanese. She only read Japanese books and watched Japanese TV.

throw off: to mislead or confuse someone (sometimes used as “throw off someone’s game”); to make something incorrect (usually numbers or a calculation). The burglar threw off police by leaving false evidence behind. // Oh, I forgot to include the figures from June. That really threw off my calculations!

throw off [something]: to get rid of something (used similarly to “shake [something]”). I just can’t throw off this cold. (I just can’t shake this cold.) I’ve been sick for a month now.

throw [something] off/from [a/the something]: to physically throw someone or something from a relatively high place, e.g. a building, a cliff, a train. James Bond threw the spy off the bridge. **

throw from: most often used in the passive (to be thrown from) to describe transportation accidents. While the woman was thrown from her vehicle upon impact, she escaped serious injury.

There are also a few idioms related to throw as well.

throw the book at [someone]: ** to punish someone severely. The murderer showed no remorse, so the judge threw the book at him.

throw [someone] a bone: to help someone out, usually by providing something intangible like an idea or an opportunity; similar to “do [someone] a favor.” Can you throw me a bone and show my resume to your boss? I really need a new job.

throw [someone] for a loop: to confuse someone. The last question on the test really threw me for a loop. I don’t think I got it right.

throw [someone] under the bus: to betray someone, or to blame them for something they didn’t do (or only had a small part in), to reduce your own punishment. After Hank and Susan were caught stealing from the company, Hank threw Sue under the bus by saying it was her idea.

*the two are interchangeable except that throw out of means to forcibly remove an unwilling person from a group or venue, but throw away of is meaningless

**”toss” can be used instead of “throw”

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