run out on someone (meaning be used up)

The intransitive multi-word verb run out meaning be used up is well known.

The transitive multi-word verb run out on meaning {OALD}:

run out on somebody

(informal) to leave somebody that you live with, especially when they
need your help

(and probably used in analogous situations) is also well known.

However, I’ve recently come across the transitivised form used with the ‘be used up’ sense, and seem to remember hearing this many years ago:

The [cold] water has never run out on me.

Internet examples are usually the broadened usage {eg a customer review}:

The battery has never run out on me.

I can’t find dictionary examples of this usage, and there aren’t too many examples at all on the internet. Is this usage common enough to be considered acceptable?


I think that this is probably a U.S. or North American thing, where "on" binds to "me" more closely than it does to "run." In effect, "on me" means "during my use" or "during my administration" or (figuratively) "before I was ready."

Here’s an example from LeezyKit of Pensacola, Florida, in a review posted on on November 6, 2012:

Also, the hot water ran out on me in the middle of my shower. It turned to freezing cold. We later found out that the hot water machine ran out of gas and that it would take 30 minutes for the hot water to start again. I had to finish my shower in the freezing cold and so did my husband.

Here, "the hot water ran out on me" means "the hot water dissipated to nothing ["ran out"] during my use of it ["on me"] (in the middle of my shower)."

And similarly from David Eddings, The Seeress of Kell (New York, 1991):

"Got myself caught up in the mountains last winter," the old fellow replied. "Supplies ran out on me. Besides, I get hungry for talk now and then. The pony and the mule listen pretty good, but they don’t answer very well, and the wolves up there move around so much that you can’t hardly get a conversation started with them."

From a translation of a letter written by a Guatemalan woman on October 10, 1990, in Larry Siems, Between the Lines: Letters Between Undocumented Mexican and Central American Immigrants and Their Families and Friends (Tucson, Arizona, 1995):

Mario we now have the car at home, we fixed up the entry and made a shed for it to go in during winter, and Tulio still isn’t learning to drive because we don’t have money for gas and even the grocery money ran out on me already, that’s why he hasn’t learned to drive, but one needs to have patience, …

And from Alberta Richardson, In a Whale’s Belly: This Poor Man Cried (Raleigh, North Carolina[?] 2013):

"Wh—Where you work, Mac? Wh—What kind of work you do?" he asked McCall.

“Ain’t got no job right now man, and my unemployment check ran out on me last month. Talk about being flat broke, busted and disgusted, that’s the story of my life[.]"

As for the related form "ran out of X on me," we have this representative example from McCall’s magazine, volume 102 (1974):

I’m apprehensive about the continued smooth functioning of pistons and carburetor, and cars know it. Last July Minnie [the author’s car] stealthily ran out of gas on me as I was on the way to play tennis. I had to walk to the nearest gas station, feeling more than faintly foolish in immaculate white shorts and white shirt.

This folksy idiomatic usage is quite familiar to me, and I believe it is fairly common in the United States. I suspect, though, that it is far more common in informal conversation than in writing that self-consciously strives for even a moderate level of formal correctness.

Source : Link , Question Author : Edwin Ashworth , Answer Author : Sven Yargs

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