A phrase is a group of words that make a unit of syntax with a single grammatical function.

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“to a degree” vs. “to an extent”

Is there a measurable difference in meaning between the phrases "to a degree" and "to an extent" (or "to some degree" and "to some extent")? Examples: To [some degree / some extent] that is a ...
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Why is “Good Night!” dismissive

To start off let us construct a situation were I am walking along and I pass another person. Depending on the time of day and to be polite I say one of the following: "Good Morning!" "Good Evening!" ...
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Take this question with a grain of salt

Where did this ubiquitous phrase come from? Usually it is used in conjunction with either disputable of downright dubious information but I can't think of how salt helps the situation. The only thing ...
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Different ways to say “you're welcome” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How do native English speakers respond to “Thank you”? Can “Sure” be used to respond to “Thanks”? Is “not at all” still alive and doing well? I'm getting ...
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What does “something 101” mean? [closed]

Many times I saw the phrase something 101, such as Microsoft Excel 101. What exactly does it mean?
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8answers
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Is it correct to say Person A is the “spitting image” or the “splitting image” of Person B?

I understand that when trying to describe a person who has a resemblance to another, the common term is spitting image. As in: Person A is a spitting image of Person B. Here's my issue, I've ...
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1answer
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“Logged-in”, “log-ined”, “login-ed”, “logined”, “log-in-ed”, “logged in”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “log in to” or “log into” or “login to” This following question, where and how to append "-ed", is not addressed in thу "possible ...
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5answers
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What does “to come undone” actually mean?

I've heard this phrase several times but was given several contradictory interpretations. Please provide an exact meaning of the phase.
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6answers
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Why do we say “I win” instead of “I won”?

For a long time I was wondering why there is I win instead of I won. I met such usage in a lot of games and movies. For me, it's logical to say I won, because this winning action is done already. I ...
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“anymore” vs. “any more”

any more requests anymore requests Are these two the same? It seems that "any more requests" is grammatically correct while "anymore requests" is not. Am I right? Why are they different?
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What are some of the most influential or obscure phrases and literary constructions drawn from the Bible?

I was reading through some English L & U SE questions, and happened across one asking about the origin of the phrase "Through a Glass, Clearly / A Scanner Darkly / In a Mirror, Darkly / ...
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Is there a word/term for a question where the asker knows he'll criticise any answer?

What do you call it when a person asks somebody a question when they know they'll criticise any answer regardless? For instance, a man asks you something like "If you were recruiting staff would you ...
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7answers
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What is the meaning of “don't mention it” (in response to “thank you”)?

I read at several places that "don't mention it" is equal to "you're welcome". But for me, the word means something like "don't go around talking about this to anyone". So what is the real meaning of ...
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9answers
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Is the phrase “I just sucked it out of my thumb” used in American English?

I was born and raised in South Africa. We frequently used the term "to suck out of one's thumb", implying that an answer was just a wild guess or the notion had no evidence but was rather just ...
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8answers
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Origin of “Too Clever by Half”

The phrase "Too Clever by Half" is used to criticize someone for being overconfident in their thinking. What is the origin of this phrase? I read somewhere that it started as a backhanded compliment ...
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It's all downhill from here

The phrase "it was all downhill from there" seems to have two, contradictory meanings. The first indicates that things have since gotten a lot worse. For example (from ...
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5answers
8k views

What is the origin of idiom “Keep your hair on”?

I had a conversation with a coworker and he told me to keep my hair on. My first understanding of the idiom was that he will do something so fast that, if I was wearing a wig or something it will fly ...
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6answers
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What is the difference between “Class of 2004” and “Batch of 2004”?

What is the difference between "Class of 2004" and "Batch of 2004"? I have a feeling that one means the students who joined the university in 2004 and the other means those who graduated in 2004. Is ...
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“The fact” vs. “The fact that” [closed]

Can you use the phrase ”the fact” without “that”? Consider the two sentences: The fact that it’s Sunday means that I can sleep all day. The fact it’s Sunday means that I can sleep all day. ...
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Is “what on earth” still commonly used in real life? Is there any alternative that is not cursing or obscene?

I'm a non-native speaker. When I was at school, we were taught that "on earth" is used for emphasis in questions such as: What on earth are you talking about? However, from my experience ...
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25answers
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Common phrase for something that changes while you are working on it

What is a common phrase to describe something that changes while you are working on it without your being aware of it. For example: you are adding comments to a document, and when you submit them you ...
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5answers
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What is the origin of “holy smoke”?

What is the origin of holy smoke? To what is holy smoke referring?
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What does ‘Put one's big boy (girl) pants on’ mean?

I saw the phrase “put somebody's pants on’ in today’s ‘Quote of the Day” of Washington Post (July 17). It quotes the following remark of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Mitt Romney's record at ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “egg in your beer”?

The phrase "egg in your beer" refers to wanting a bonus or something for nothing. Its common usage is: "What do you want? An egg in your beer?" However, this does not seem to make much sense, as an ...
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What's the most accurate term for phrases such as “storm in a teacup” and “making mountains out of molehills”?

Are phrases such as "storm in a teacup" and "making mountains out of molehills" best described by one of these terms: anecdote proverb saying expression metaphor If not, which term is the right ...
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What is this an example of: “I couldn't fail not to disagree with you less”?

Eisenhower used it constantly to fend off reporters. Is there a term to describe this type of phrase?
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Is “incorrect facts” an oxymoron?

I've seen this so many times and it drives me crazy. The latest was the actor Paul Giamatti setting some story straight in the press about him: "It's unfortunately an incorrect fact about me and it's ...
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Talking out of the side of your mouth

Talking out of the side of your mouth This means one is lying, right? Or something else?
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“During summer” vs. “during the summer”

What is the difference between saying "during summer" and "during the summer"? As in: I work during the summer. I work during summer. Are both common? Is my feeling correct that the ...
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6answers
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Why does the following phrase sound old fashioned?

"We went swimming later in the afternoon, Jack and I." I am trying to describe what is happening here by breaking the sentence down into it's basic components, but I am having difficulty doing this. ...
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What is the origin and meaning of the phrase “bane of my existence”?

A friend recently used the phrase bane of my existence, and while I’m familiar with the phrase, I would like to know its origin and meaning.
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4answers
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“You could do worse than [x]”

I can't really tell what someone means when he says "you could do worse than [x]." Live example: If you are just interested in a simple command line processor which uses MSXML 6 then you could do ...
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Phrasing “An hour's rest”

I was just posting a question to the Homebrewing StackExchange, and I found myself pondering the proper way to express my sentiment. I first wrote "an hour's rest", but upon review, I deemed the ...
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“A wrong answer” vs “the wrong answer”

In English, when presented with a list (real or imagined) or answers that could be given to a question, and the correct one is not given, we will say that somebody has given "the wrong answer". ...
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Is it common to use the borrowed noun-adjective form for borrowed French phrases?

Lately, something has struck me. I've been hearing several expressions in English, some clearly borrowed from French and preserving their noun-adjective form. Some examples are: Attorney General ...
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Usage of “shall we?”

What does it mean and where would I use it?
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Usage of “so that”

I am working on a paper, and the following phrasing was suggested: In the protein-protein interaction (PPI) network, nodes represent proteins and edges represent connections between them, ...
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Question Regarding Possessives with ('s) and (of) [duplicate]

Question: Is the first one redundant and proper, or is it redundant and not necessarily correct? (1) He is a friend of Doug's. (2) He is a friend of Doug.
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“Out of the box” — when should I use this phrase?

I send a lot of unsolicited emails. In many of them, I ask to buy traditional advertising spots or to help conceive a non-traditional campaign. Oftentimes, I find myself describing these ...
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2answers
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“Pardon me French”

Even though the phrase pardon my French is used much more often, I do constantly run across pardon me French as well. What's the deal with that? Wikipedia does have an entry on Pardon my French, but ...
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What is the usual form of “Please do the needful”? [duplicate]

I was browsing the internet, and found that "Please do the needful" is not an appropriate sentence to use or write. According to this link, this sentence used to get used in South Asia. What would be ...
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“Broken my duck”? Is this a common idiom/phrase?

I steal this phrase from a comment on Meta Stack Overflow: yep, I think I've broken my duck or so to speak :) – Kev♦ 51 mins ago The context is one of having been basically broken into a ...
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What is the origin of the phrase ‘By the by…’?

What is the origin of the phrase 'By the by...'?
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What does “I’m like, c’mon guys. I’m the president of the United States.” imply?

The Washington Post (April 14) reported President Obama's off-the-cuff remark during a meeting with donors in Chicago held on April 13th under the title: "Obama riffs with donors: Where are the cool ...
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Why does “go spare” mean “get angry”?

I don't know whether the phrase "go spare" is used in the US, but it is very common in the UK. e.g. You're an hour late. Mum's going spare upstairs! I would like to know where the phrase comes ...
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Is ‘on (in) a tear’ a popular idiom?

I was drawn to the phrase, ‘on a tear’ that I heard in audio in this week’s Barron’s magazine (June 6) reporting the good sales and profit performance of U.S. sneaker chain, Foot Locker: It says: ...
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2answers
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When a phrase ends with a period, do you put … or .. after it?

I was just reading this question: When "etc." is at the end of a phrase, do you place a period after it? And it brought to mind something similar. If a phrase ends with a . (such as e.g. or ...
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'Drop us a line' - letter or phone call?

According to the Free Dictionary, dropping someone a line means sending them a short message. Is this correct? I always thought it meant phoning someone, the line referring to a telephone line.
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A saying indicating how some professionals don't apply their skills for themselves

Some made-up examples: Architect's house is always crooked. Mechanic's car is leaking Chef's breakfast is as plain as boiled eggs Is there an established saying for these situations?
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The phrase “let alone”

I notice that "let alone" is used in sentences that have a comma. The structure of the sentence is what comes before the comma is some kind of negative statement. Right after the comma is "let alone," ...