Water down | What does this phrasal verb mean?

The preposition down , when used in phrasal verbs , tends to mean either a downward movement or a reduction, decrease of something.

One such case is the phrasal we see today: water down . While to water alone can be used as the verb ” to water,” water down creates even more emphasis. But from this sense “dilute”, “water”, the verb has acquired another meaning that is often seen today: “attenuate”, “reduce” anything (a pronouncement, a law) – especially when a part is removed so as not to cause disapproval or offense. For example:

This legislation has been watered down so much that it means nothing anymore.
This legislation has been so relaxed that it means nothing more.

Unlike the verb tone down , which, you may recall, we examined a while ago, water down tends to have a disapproving meaning. It is what you use to talk about something that has been ‘softened’ but which you think should not have been.

With a few examples below, the verb should be clearer to you. Note that for the figurative meaning of the verb we can use a variety of options: “reduce”, “attenuate” or even “dilute”.

And of course, not to be outdone with tradition: remember to register the term in Anki for future revisions. Well reviewed material is well learned material!

1 – Starting with the first sense, “dilute”, “water”.

He was careful to check that his suppliers were not watering down the product.
He was careful to check that his suppliers were not watering the product.

I bought a water-based paint, then decided to water it down even more.
I bought a water-based paint and then decided to dilute it further.

That place waters down their drinks.
That place dilutes your drinks.

Jim watered down the orange juice.
Jim diluted the orange juice.

The cook watered the sauce down .
The cook watered the sauce .

2 – Now let’s go to the figurative sense, very common. “Reduce”, “Attenuate”, “Dilute”.

Proposed legislation affecting bird-keepers has been watered down .
Proposed legislation that would affect bird growers has been relaxed .

The report of the investigation had been watered down .
The investigation report has been mitigated .

Legislators want to offer a watered-down version in hopes that it will satisfy voters.
Lawmakers want to offer a reduced version in the hope that it will satisfy voters.

Some of the more forthright sections were watered down by the editors.
Some of the more direct sections have been moderated by the editors.

The problem with working with a large group is that you end up having to compromise and water down the final product just to make everyone happy.
The problem with working with a large group is that you have to compromise and dilute the final product just to make everyone happy.

Please do not water my declaration down .
Please do not moderate my statement .

The new laws watered down the power of the president.
The new laws dampened the president’s power.

In the end, the legislation was watered down by multiple changes.
In the end, the legislation was reduced by several amendments.

What did you think of today’s phrasal ? Can you think of some examples of how you could use water down in your conversations? Express yourself in the comments, we are waiting for you!

by Abdullah Sam
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