Is taking out the garbage an errand or a chore?


Chinese - Mandarine
I checked the dictionary, an errand is defined as a short journey taken to perform some necessary duty; a chore is defined as a necessary domestic task. Is taking out the garbage an errand or a chore?
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    An errand is usually to the shops. You wouldn't call the short journey to the letterbox or where the bins are kept an errand. 'Chore' is AmE for a household task. In BrE it has a stronger meaning of being a real nuisance.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I would also say it's a chore, since errand seems to carry a sense of going somewhere for a purpose. Just taking the garbage outside the house isn't much of a journey.

    When mother sent Little Red Riding Hood to take some cake and wine to her sick grandmother who lived in the forest, you could say she was sent on an errand.
    Going grocery shopping would typically be called an errand. Unlike EB, I'd also call going to the letterbox an errand (unless he means the house's own letterbox; I mean the post office letterbox, a ten minute walk away).

    As an aside, the dictionary tells us that "errand" is etymologically related to "messenger" and "message".
    Indeed, the dictionary also tells us that one meaning of "message" is mission or errand.
    As it happens, it's relatively common here in Scotland (or was, it's mostly elderly folk I hear saying this now) to say "getting the messages" for "going grocery shopping".


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, that's what I meant. Basically, nothing within your own property is an errand - as far as the letterbox at the head of your front path or drive, or the shed or swimming pool in the back garden. But once you get out into the street, even if it's just to drop a note into next door's letterbox, that's an errand.

    And I too grew up saying 'doing the messages' for going shopping; something even my mother no longer says.

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    'Chore' is AmE for a household task. In BrE it has a stronger meaning of being a real nuisance.
    It has this stonger meaning in my usage, so I don't talk about 'household chores'. Taking out the garbage is not an errand in my usage either. (Anyway, I expect Swarovski is more interested in the AmE view of this, since he/she uses the AmE "taking out the garbage".)
    Last edited:


    Chinese - Mandarine
    Thank you very much for all your help so far. I'm actually interested in both BrE and AmE views. :)
    Does "taking out the garbage" means putting the trash in the garbage bin to you?
    How about pushing the garbage bins to the side of the street so that the garbage truck could pick it up?

    To my understanding, in some western countries, each household pushes their garbage bin to the kerb/curb, and the garbage truck man (I'm not sure whether this is the right term) would empty the trash as the garbage truck drives by.
    In Taiwan, however, unless people live in a condominium, they typically have to take their garbage to a certain spot and wait there for a garbage truck to arrive. Depending on how far they live from the collecting spot, some people walk half a block, and some others walk a block to dump the garbage.

    Do you recommend that I use "chore" instead of "errand" in my situation?
    Any input is much appreciated.
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    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Typically in England now you have a wheeled bin which you push out to the kerbside on collection day. So we'd say "put the bin out" or "put the rubbish out". But it's certainly not an "errand" and it's not really a "chore", which would suggest it was time-consuming. The only word I can think of to describe it really is "task".

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I can well understand why Swarovski might think of taking the rubbish out as a chore. I certainly do.;) I live in an old manor house: taking the rubbish out involves going down a flight of stairs, walking through the courtyard, opening and closing the (very heavy) front gate and then going over to the designated pick-up point . This happens five evenings a week (they pick up different things on different days). Definitely a chore (as in a real pain).;)
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