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In general, what does it mean when people say "something is not an option"? It sounds like it means "something is a must". Am I right?

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If you google "is not an option" -meaning, I think it's pretty obvious that by far the most common usage is "failure is not an option". Which I'm sure is never intended to mean failure is compulsory. –  FumbleFingers Dec 7 '11 at 18:12
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It depends on the context. It is not an option might mean, it is not an option that is available, so it cannot be done.

It might also mean that something is mandatory (not optional), in which case it must be done.

Perhaps you could expand on your question a little?

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I think in practice the mandatory meaning would almost always either be specified as that, or as "not optional", rather than "not an option". –  FumbleFingers Dec 7 '11 at 18:02
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Since an option is a choice, if something is not one of the options, it can't be chosen. But if something truly is not one of the possible choices, the phrase is often something is not one of the options.

The phrase something is not an option is often idiomatic, where the something actually could be the outcome, but it is seen as something that should not be considered a wise or desirable choice.

For example, if I were planning to do something extremely important to me--for instance, getting an advanced degree--I might say that failure is not an option. I could fail, but it would not be something I would deliberately choose to do. (Failure in a course of education, of course, is quite literally a possible outcome, as in a failing grade, but it need not be so literal.)

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