Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people talk about what something is made of in English?

Have you ever gone to order something to eat and wondered what it was made out of?

We are looking at a situation where there are some very subtle differences in specific phrasal verbs, and this can be confusing.

If you are wondering how to use made with, made of, and made out of, then you are not alone as this can be quite confusing.

You will learn with practice which works best, but we will give you some general rules and guidelines today to help you in this situation.

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Today we have a good question about made with, made of, and made out of and it may be something that you have wondered about yourself.

Hello Lindsay, Michelle, Jessica and Aubrey,

My name is Pedro, and I’m from Spain. I know you from some years ago, and I love your podcast and don’t miss an episode! I have a question that I am hoping you can help to answer for me. I find this a topic to be interesting, and I hope you do too enough to make an episode about it.

I’m not sure if these phrasal verbs that I show in the example below are interchangeable or not, and so I could use some help here. I am talking about the following phrasal verbs: make of, make out of, make with. For instance, are these sentences the same using each of these phrasal verbs?

The cake is made with butter.

The cake is made of butter.

The cake is made out of butter.

Thanks for your great job in the podcast, and I hope you can help to answer my question!


Looking At Some Background

This is a great and very nuanced question from our listener!

We love getting questions like this, because they really make us think.

These are the types of things that natives might not think about, but it’s good for you to think through this as you are learning English.

This is something that you want to learn about and understand, because although the differences may seem subtle they can be rather significant in conversation.

So let’s start by looking at some background that may help here.

You may sometimes have to practice this sort of thing, and see what sounds right in each sentence or circumstance.

Here’s a link that starts to break this down and which may help a bit, inspired from the Cambridge Dictionary with a sort of explanation.

This is about something creating something— so with the cake, the butter is helping to create the cake.

But there’s more to it, and that’s what we want to look at.

Though you may look at the three examples in the listeners question and think it’s a very subtle difference, you want to understand how this works and what’s appropriate at the right time.

So let’s get into the differences so that you can start to understand how this works.

Breaking Down The Differences

So let’s take this one by one and then you can see how each one works.

Though the differences may seem minor, you will start to see which one works best in the right circumstances.

See how they work in conversation, practice using each one, and then you will get a feel for which one is most natural in the right circumstance.

  • Made out of: This is when something has changed a lot to make something else. It is usually something unrelated or something that you wouldn’t think could make something else. So it’s like making something completely different out of materials or ingredients that you might never think of. This has a feel to it that makes the item unique in nature, and therefore may really stand out. An example of this could be “Do you like my necklace? It’s made out of guitar picks and soda can tabs!” So as you can see it’s kind of strange and rather shocking when you hear what the item is made out of.
  • Made of: This is the same sort of idea, but more general and more normal. It’s kind of just like created with certain elements or ingredients. These are the types of things that you would expect to be present in the makeup of that item. An example would be “My couch is made of leather.” You might also say something like “This clock is made of rose gold.” This is identifying what the item is made of, and it’s really nothing unexpected.
  • Made with: This is more about what you are eating or drinking. This tends to pertain to ingredients in something that you are eating or drinking. You might see these things featured on a nutritional label or a menu so that you know exactly what you are about to consume. You might say “This soup is made with pumpkin, lentils, and broth.”
  • Made from: This is one more not on the example above, but it’s a great one to add to the list. This is more about construction or manufacturing. So it might refer to materials on the site or from production in some way. You can picture the craftmanship that goes into this sort of thing. You might hear “The bars were made from metal.”

So there are differences, but as you can see they are a bit more subtle in nature.

Like if you look at the cake example, you would likely go with “made with” for the best option there.

The other two makes it sound as if the entire cake is made out of butter, which is of course not desirable.

However, if you heard someone say the cake is made out of butter, you probably wouldn’t think anything of it.

This is quite nuanced and so as you might guess there really isn’t anything wrong or confusing with any of the examples.

It’s just more a matter of what sounds best or which sounds like the right option to pick.

You can see the general rules and sound out which option fits best within a conversation.

But the subtle differences can be a bit challenging, and so this is where practice will help you tremendously.

Always be listening for context and to what others say so that you can get a good feel of what to pick.

Roleplay To Help

Lindsay and Michelle are at a farmers and crafts market.

Lindsay: “Oh wow, check out these earrings.”

Michelle: “Wow- it says here they are made out of shark teeth!”

Lindsay: “That’s shocking.”

Michelle: “Yeah. Oh look at this food stand. These muffins look delicious. They are made with chocolate and pistachio nuts.”

Lindsay: “Oh let’s get some. I love this stand. The table is so beautiful. I think it’s made of real natural wood!”

Michelle: “Yeah, it’s beautiful.”

Lindsay: “It says here that they also sell furniture, and all of it is made from recycled materials.”


This is a great nuanced question about some very subtle differences that can be confusing at times!

Be sure to listen for context, and see what others are saying.

We gave you some basic rules to use here which can help you in the situation at hand.

In the end though, it’s all about practicing and finding what you feel is the best fit for the conversation you are in at the time.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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