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

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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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Difference between phrase, idiom and expression [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the difference between an expression and a phrase? Difference between “phrase” and “idiom” What is the difference between a phrase, an ...
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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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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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5answers
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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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6answers
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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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1answer
838 views

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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5answers
5k 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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8answers
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“Does it make sense?” or “Do you understand me?”? [closed]

Suppose I tell something to my companion and I want to make sure he understands me. I thought I may simply ask "Do you understand me?". But recently I heard that in such cases I should ask "Does it ...
5
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3answers
2k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
824 views

“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". ...
3
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5answers
406 views

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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3answers
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“my friend” vs “a friend of mine”

I always found it weird to hear people say things like "My friend asked me to come" (with no prior mention of said friend), as opposed to "A friend of mine asked me to come". To me it seems as though ...
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5answers
5k views

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, ...
1
vote
5answers
2k views

“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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3answers
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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 ...
18
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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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2answers
3k views

“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 ...
12
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4answers
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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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6answers
3k views

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 ...
7
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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 ...
7
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7answers
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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.
7
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3answers
837 views

What is the origin of the phrase “to take a rain check”

I know what it means, but can't really see the reasoning of this phrase. Anyone with an insight?
6
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6answers
905 views

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. ...
6
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4answers
452 views

There is no headache strong enough, that a good coffee won't relieve

I heard this phrase today and I'm pretty sure that there is something wrong with it. I do not know if it is the grammar or the syntax or the meaning of the words. Can you please tell me what the ...
6
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3answers
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Origin of “spill the beans”

I believe this phrase means "to betray information". Could someone please explain its origin?
6
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7answers
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What is the meaning of “Many a mickle makes a muckle”?

I've heard this phrase, and don't know what a "mickle" or a "muckle" is. Hence I have no idea at all what the phrase itself is supposed to mean.
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3answers
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Is the expression 'half a percent' acceptable in formal English?

When central banks raise or lower interest rates the radio announcer will say for example: an increase of one half of one percent Informally people use half a percent instead, which is less ...
6
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6answers
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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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0answers
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Etymology of “to coin a phrase” [closed]

Quite simply — who coined the phrase "to coin a phrase"? I'm sure it wasn't one person, but it's the origin that is of interest.
5
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2answers
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“Thanks for having me”

Recently, I finished my phone job interview with the phrase "Thanks for having me". It was a reply to the other person's "Thank you for your time". So, does "thanks for having me" sound alright in ...
4
votes
1answer
179 views

“How did I do this” or “how did I do that”?

Is there a difference between: How did I do this? and How did I do that? If not, is there a preferred one? If they are different, when should I choose one over the other? I am not a ...
4
votes
4answers
924 views

Is “since I'm” now an acceptable alternative to “since I was”?

In a recent episode of the television show Entourage, Ari Gold (a 40 year old man) says: I've known her since I'm 19. In an episode of Sex and the City, a character, who is 15, tells Carrie: ...
4
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8answers
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Other ways to say “I'm rooting for you?”

What are other ways one can say that have the same meaning as, "I'm rooting for you?"
4
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3answers
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What is the origin of the phrase “forty winks,” meaning a short nap?

Inspired by the question How long is a 'wink'?, I did some work on the origin of the phrase forty winks. Though the OP at the wink question mentions the phrase, it does not ask about its origin. So I ...
4
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1answer
4k views

What is the difference between an expression and a phrase?

I'm trying to decide what tags I should be using and realized I did not know the difference between these terms.
4
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2answers
8k views

Classify into 4 categories or in 4 categories?

Which is more correct? I am going to classify these faults into 4 categories. I am going to classify these faults in 4 categories. I am going to classify these faults as 4 categories. ...
3
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4answers
477 views

Is “Something in the sand” a popular English phrase?

I’m interested in the line, “Raising tax rates on the wealthy is Obama’s line in the sand” in the following lead-copy of Washington Post’s (December 4) article titled “President Obama’s tough time ...
3
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5answers
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What does “my point being” mean?

I have heard someone say in a conversation, "Well, my point being,,,". As an English learner, I was puzzled but assumed that it was roughly the same as saying "My point is that..." or "Here's my ...
3
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1answer
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What does “Thundering typhoons” mean?

What does "Thundering typhoons" mean? Actually it was in the 2011 movie The Adventures of Tintin.
3
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3answers
324 views

“Carrot of profits”

What does the phrase, carrot of profits, mean? The context is And for smaller companies, using the carrot of profits 20 years away isn’t likely to sway VCs who can see no further than three. A ...
3
votes
4answers
9k views

“I am working” or “I have worked almost two months at this project”?

Which one is correct? "I am working almost two months at this project" or "I have worked almost two months at this project" I want to give this meaning: I'm still working on it.
3
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2answers
608 views

“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 ...
2
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3answers
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Are “preaching to the choir” and “preaching to the converted” synonymous

The following are acceptable expressions that I have heard: "Preaching to the choir" "Preaching to the converted" To me, both mean essentially that you are trying to explain something to ...
2
votes
2answers
7k views

Should I use present or past tense when referring to a (scientific) paper? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What (grammatical) tense to use when doing reference in a paper? In the two examples below, which tense is preferred? "Smith (2001) noted that ..." or "Smith (2001) ...
1
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4answers
92 views

Does one open a browser “on” a URL?

Can I say: It opens the browser on the URL [X] meaning that something is opening the browser with the URL [X] already typed in and loading?
1
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3answers
224 views

The use of question formation in non-question phrases?

I have read the following text some time ago: [...] Only here can you enjoy dazzling entertainment, get the thrill of your life on the exciting rides, and be face-to-face with some of the ...
0
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2answers
413 views

Which is correct: “What is” or “What are” [closed]

How should I phrase "What is the first 5 digits of your home postal code" or "What are the first 5 digits of your home postal code?"
0
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3answers
513 views

How to describe the feeling you get when something exceedingly irritating, irritates you? [closed]

Got extremely annoyed today. But that's not the word I was looking for. I had to deliver a case of bottled water to some friends living in another dorm in our college. I have to tell you, the sound ...
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2answers
3k views

What does “in spades” mean? [closed]

What does "in spades" mean, for example in the following sentence: demand and love are both there in spades ... I guess "in spades" means "on cards" or "on the table" or exist?