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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

4
votes
11answers
26k views

Phrase for something that is always out or reach/you almost have but never can get

I believe there is a two-word phrase for something that is always just out of reach for you and which you cannot ever seem to get. (It is not Tantalus or anything having to do with Tantalus, please). ...
4
votes
5answers
6k 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, ...
3
votes
5answers
538 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.
3
votes
5answers
18k views

“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 ...
3
votes
2answers
696 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
votes
3answers
458 views

The phrase “more sharp” vs “sharper”

So I was talking to my fiancee and she said "more sharp" to which I said "you mean sharper?". This is in context of talking about her current earrings being "more sharp" then her usual ones. She then ...
1
vote
3answers
42k views

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 ...
1
vote
2answers
10k views

As good as it gets- grammar

I do know what "as good as it gets" means (in my language, we say "it will not get any better"). However, I do not understand the grammar here: Firstly, does the "get" mean a change of state here? ...
14
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
22k views

What is the origin of the phrase ‘By the by…’?

What is the origin of the phrase 'By the by...'?
12
votes
4answers
11k views

Where does “beat around the bush” come from?

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?
10
votes
6answers
2k views

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 ...
8
votes
3answers
676 views

Is there a term for a product having the same name as its place of origin?

Several trade products, especially food, have been named after their places of origin throughout the centuries. To mention just a few, champagne, after Champagne, France. calico, after Calicut, ...
7
votes
7answers
3k views

How to say “You have this much work to do because you decided to do that much” more elegantly?

I want to try word this a bit more elegantly, fancy, etc. Basically that is a reply to a co-worker who said to me in an email saying "Too much work to do!" and I want to reply to that in an ...
7
votes
4answers
9k views

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: ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

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
votes
7answers
14k views

'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
votes
3answers
1k 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?
7
votes
3answers
11k views

Origin of “spill the beans”

I believe this phrase means "to betray information". Could someone please explain its origin?
7
votes
8answers
9k views

Where does “Going out on a limb” come from?

I know that the phrase, "I'm going out on a limb here" means either to take a risk or hazard a guess, but where does it come from? As in, what did it originally refer to before it became an idiom?
7
votes
1answer
7k views

What is the origin of the phrase “and nothing of value was lost”?

What is the origin of the phrase "and nothing of value was lost"? Is this from a movie, book, or show, or did it get its start on Slashdot or some other online forum?
7
votes
2answers
12k 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. ...
6
votes
4answers
479 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
votes
2answers
17k views

“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 ...
6
votes
2answers
72k views

Meaning of “hail to the king”

I can't translate that sentence, “hail to the king”. I've found something like “greetings to the king” but is this correct?
6
votes
7answers
34k views

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.
6
votes
4answers
5k views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Term for double meanings

What is the term used for a phrase that could have more than one meaning such as "This battery is free of charge"?
5
votes
4answers
1k views

Bless your heart

Is "bless your heart" something only used by old women in the South (all I've ever heard)? Or is it ever appropriate for a man to use it without seeming unmanly? Does the term always have ...
5
votes
0answers
2k views

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
votes
8answers
99k views

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?"
5
votes
1answer
7k 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
votes
1answer
224 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
5answers
2k 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
votes
3answers
26k views

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 ...
3
votes
4answers
731 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
votes
1answer
5k views

What does “Thundering typhoons” mean?

What does "Thundering typhoons" mean? Actually it was in the 2011 movie The Adventures of Tintin.
3
votes
3answers
434 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
6answers
8k views

What is the structure in “as best you can”?

I instinctively translate it "as best as you can", however this makes no sense. What is the real structure behind this phrase? I'll include an Ngram to illustrate the historical presence of this ...
3
votes
4answers
12k 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.
2
votes
3answers
539 views

Why does “something catch my eye” but not “both my eyes”?

I am not a native English speaker, I usually hear “something caught my eye” but never “something caught (both) my eyes”. This seems pretty strange to me. Cambridge Dictionaries Online provide these ...
2
votes
2answers
10k views

Can I use “and” many times in one sentence?

I was always under the impression I should not use and more than once. I have this text: I appreciate that all my previous work experience is within office based industries however I am a quick ...
2
votes
4answers
259 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?
2
votes
4answers
270 views

What does “make the last word on word” mean?

I found the article of New Yorker magazine dealing with U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia’s scrupulousness of the usage of words under the title’ “Salia’s word game” very interesting as an ...
2
votes
5answers
12k views

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
13k 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) ...
2
votes
5answers
1k views

“A classmate and I was” vs “A classmate and I were”

I'm writing a resume right now targeted towards a specific company. My girlfriend (a classmate) and I were (see, I don't know if that's the right word, hence this question!) the first from our school ...
1
vote
2answers
962 views

Close by or nearby? [closed]

The cops traced residential address of his relatives who lived close by. Close up/down, close off, close in are terms well understood, I have not seen such usage of close + by. Would it be ...
1
vote
3answers
2k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

Is 'thought it to be' grammatically correct?

Does If man continues to scathe all of Earth and its seas, then this isn’t the world I thought it to be make sense? Or should I just replace the 'to' with 'would'?