Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you chewed on any delicious food recently?

Alternatively have you heard people talk about chewing on something that wasn’t food related?

To chew on something can have multiple meanings in English, and that is what we’re focusing on today.

You will learn all about what this means, how to use it, and different ways to talk about thinking something over or making a decision.

Get Your Transcripts Today!

Make sure you understand every word you hear on All Ears English.

Bring your English to the advanced level with new vocabulary and natural expressions.

Subscribe and get the transcripts delivered by email.

Learn to speak naturally with the American accent.

Click here to subscribe and save 50%

A Little Background

When you talk about “chewing something over” it’s really saying that you are thinking it through.

This is to say that you are considering options, or really giving something a lot of thought.

We did an episode that is related, and you’ll want to check this out for some helpful background.

Annoyed? When To Deal With It and Not Say Anything In English

You saw a phrasal verb recently that we are going to discuss today, and it may be one that you’ve heard before.

It is “chew on” which may sound like it’s a bit confusing.

You may hear this used but you may also wonder if “on” is necessary.

Quite honestly having just chew alone in a sentence has one meaning, while adding the word “on” has an entirely different one.

You have done great phrasal verbs with Aubrey so far, and here we have another one for you.

So what does it mean to “chew on” something?

It can deal with actually chewing on something literally, like picture the act of eating something and chewing it up.

Think of what you could say about chewing up your food, and you would find an example like this “She was chewing on her popsicle when he asked her a question.”

Today we’re talking about it in another way though, as we are focused on using the phrase “chew on” to talk about decision making.

This is a different angle or approach, but it’s an important aspect of things that is bound to come up often.

Talking About Decision Making

Today we are focused on decision making and that’s where the phrase “chew on” comes up as a perfect example.

You can almost envision this if you think about it—you are chewing on or thinking through, or even taking your time with something.

You are letting it sink in, rather than having a quick decision without thought that means nothing.

Let’s break this down and really think about how this phrasal verb can work.

Visualizing it can help you first, and then look at these examples and breakdown to help you to make sense of it and use it in conversation.

When you say you are going to “chew on” something it means to put thought into something.

Maybe you have a choice to make in the future, or have to answer something, but you need to “chew on it” first.

Maybe it isn’t about a decision at all–maybe it’s just something that makes you think or really slow down to reconsider.

It is often about decision making, but not always and that’s where it may be something to make you think or reconsider or even reflect.

Let’s look at a couple of examples which may help you to consider this.

“That last chapter gave me a lot to chew on. I’ll have to read it again before I lead the book club meeting.”

  • Chew on this: This is basically telling others that this gives a lot to think about. This is like saying that you have so much to think about or consider before you make a decision. “Chew on this–I’m moving to France.” “The hiring managers have tons of applications to chew on.” “I have a lot to chew on over the weekend. I really don’t know what I’ll decide. “
  • Chew over: This can be very similar, but chew over seems to be more about talking out these decisions. This is like saying that something gives you food for thought or a lot to take in and think about. “Can we chew it over during the lunch break?”
  • Contemplate: This is a more elevated version of saying that you are thinking something over. You have to think through what is presented to you and then work through it to make a decision. “I have to contemplate how I’m going to handle this situation.”
  • Ponder: This is another way to describe that you have to think something over. It’s not necessarily used as often, but it helps to describe you thinking something over in detail. “Here are some questions for you to ponder before we begin,”
  • Consider all our options: This is like a visual representation where you can almost see somebody considering each option. This usually works best when you are talking about a choice that has multiple options. “We have to consider all our options before making a decision.”

How do you make big decisions?

Is it difficult for you?

Do you have a formula or a plan to help you make decisions?

Do you make decisions more with your head or your heart?

Roleplay To Help

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Michelle are deciding which college to attend—and they are best friends in high school.

Michelle: “I’m so happy you got that scholarship!”

Lindsay: “Yeah. I have a lot to chew on, though. It’s a tough choice.”

Michelle: “It’s a lot to ponder. It’s good to consider all your options, though. Keep an open mind.”

Lindsay: “Yeah. What about you? Do you know what you are doing, or do you want to chew it over?”

Michelle: “I’m a bit torn.* I was contemplating going with my first choice, but it’s so expensive.”


Today we discussed our patterns with thinking about decision making as this is an important thing to think through.

Decision making is also something that you are likely to talk about often, and it may even lead you to connections as well.

We gave you some new vocab to talk about the idea of decision making, including the phrase “chew on.”

You will always have decisions to make and things to talk about in this area–so try these out today and see how they can work for you!

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

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

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X