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Can I have an example of a context in which the expression throw the net wide is used? I have heard it in passing but it is not clear to me what was meant.

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I've always heard / read it as "cast the net wide".... – Hellion Feb 14 '12 at 14:30
it refers to a fish net maybe? – Mitch Feb 14 '12 at 17:33
@Mitch maybe. Have you read the answers? – slim Feb 14 '12 at 18:28
@slim: what, you mean there's another possibility? (when I made my comment I had missed you mention of the fishing). So my comment was more to the obviousness of the metaphor. – Mitch Feb 14 '12 at 18:41
up vote 4 down vote accepted

"We really need to find strong candidates for this job, so let's throw the net wide."

Meaning: "Let's look in as many places as possible for job candidates."

It is a metaphor for fishing with a net. The wider you throw the net, the larger an area of water it will cover, so the more likely you are to catch a fish.

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Albeit all the more likely that you'll be catching other stuff too. "Throw the net wide" basically indicates that you're being less discriminating in your initial selection. – Sean Duggan Feb 14 '12 at 15:31

I don't think I've ever heard "throw the net wide". I've always heard it as, "throw a wide net".

But then I just did the ever-popular ngrams thing and it shows "throw the net wide" at zero usage up to about 1955, but surging in popularity and intermittently passing "throw a wide net". Huh.

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haha - I'd never heard "throw a wide net" before, so I thought your NGram was quite surprising. I guess you won't like this one then, since it shows conclusively that the word "cast" was always the dominant verb, even if the other words get rearranged in variations of the idiom. – FumbleFingers Feb 14 '12 at 17:33
I, too, have always heard "___ a wide net", not "___ the net wide" -- but, like FumbleFingers, my ___ is "cast", not "throw". (Of course, his/her Ngram is cheating slightly -- "cast" is both plain-form and preterite, whereas "throw" is only plain-form -- but "casts" vs. "throws" gives the same result.) – ruakh Feb 14 '12 at 20:42

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