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

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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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639 views

Is “and then some” an offensive expression?

I started an internal email discussion with the title "Editorial: link issues, some spelling issues and then some". However, upon rereading my own mail, it occurred to me that this might express ...
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376 views

What does “a pretzel palace” mean?

Today’s New York Times picked up a line of the comment of Governor of California, Jerry Brown on California's tight budget, which calls for severe spending cuts to deal with a $15.7 billion shortfall ...
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“Despite the fact” implies knowledge of said facts

I had an argument about the phrase "despite the fact". The argument was around the headline: US Immigration officials deport 14 year old runaway to Colombia, despite the fact that she's American ...
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3k views

What does “be at it” mean? Is it an idiom?

In the talk show titled “How Dogs Evolved Into 'Our Best Friends'” on NPR’s “Fresh Air” aired on November 8, naturalist Mark Derr offered an intriguing story about how humans and wolves developed a ...
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156 views

Origins of the phrase “How killing!”

My mother says this phrase all of the time, to mean "That is hilarious". Supposedly "killing" is short for "killingly-funny"(!) but I must admit I have never ever heard anyone else say it. Is it a ...
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1answer
197 views

“Unpleasant smile” vs. “unhappy smile”

Is an unpleasant smile the same as an unhappy smile? What does an unhappy smile look like? If they're not the same then what does an unpleasant smile look like?
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3k views

“Take long/longer/less long”

Which of these are correct English and which ones aren’t? This took long. If we do X, it will take longer. If we do Y, it will take less long.
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872 views

“just married” or “just wed”?

I saw this for the first time in something recent: "just wed". I wonder how and when it is used (BrE only, under certain conditions). Does it mean exactly the same as "married"?
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383 views

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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2answers
17k views

What are the implications of “at my disposal”

I found myself using the phrase "[something] is at my disposal" as a way of indicating that a particular resource is available for my use. My question arises from the word disposal. It seems to ...
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265 views

What does “Without padding one’s end zone” mean?

In the following sentence of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy in New York Times (Feb.1) contributed by columnist Jennifer LaRue Huget, I found the following sentence: You can work up Super Bowl Sunday ...
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1answer
2k views

Why “tickety-boo”?

I heard myself saying something was "tickety-boo", meaning good, successful, or satisfactory. Does anyone know where this strange-sounding phrase originated?
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16k views

What does “what's the catch” mean?

It sounds like a marketing term. Does it mean "However there are some points to take note"?
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169 views

Reflexive pronouns and understood “to be”

So, I've got a fairly straightforward sentence: Poe did not think himself a writer of inferior material. It is my understanding that "a writer of inferior material" is the object of the ...
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1answer
190 views

Should I say “I make a living by teaching” or “I make a living teaching”? Which one is correct? Is the preposition 'by' necessary?

I am confused about the correct usage of the phrasal verb, 'make a living'. I don't know whether I should add the preposition 'by' at the end of it. I looked up several dictionaries, most of which ...
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1answer
649 views

Why does 'dead on' mean 'very accurate'? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Where does the phrase “dead simple” originate? According to Wiktionary, the phrase 'dead on' means 'very accurate' or 'exactly at'. This is also how I have used the ...
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3answers
4k 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 ...
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3answers
2k views

Word for thing with positive and negative consequences

What word can I use for a thing with positive and negative consequences? For example, taking a cab rather than driving has its advantages and disadvantages.
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662 views

What does “call past” mean?

What does the expression "call past" mean? See some usages below: I called past the supermarket on the way home from the office. He just called past and asked to gather the team in the ...
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3answers
498 views

Equivalent of homonym for terms and phrases

A homonym is a word with two distinct meanings, for instance: chase (from dict.org) To pursue for the purpose of killing or taking, as an enemy, or game; to hunt. [1913 Webster] ...
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4answers
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Meaning of “ask of”

What is the meaning of the phrase ask of in the following sentence? Trust and security are important for any application; before we move on to the meat of accessing data, let’s make sure the ...
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2answers
835 views

“Sleep in” versus “Sleep out”

Over the years, I have often debated whether the phrase is "In the morning, I'm going to sleep in." or "In the morning, I'm going to sleep out." My best guess is that it is a regional difference of ...
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2answers
801 views

What's the meaning of “as it did” in this sentence?

Islamic law is the result of an examination, from a religious angle, of legal subject matter that was far from uniform, comprising as it did the various components of the laws of pre-Islamic Arabia ...
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261 views

What is the difference between “set phrase” and “catch phrase”?

What is the difference between set phrase and catch phrase? Do the expressions describe something without relation with each other?
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1answer
5k views

Not only… but also

Consider the following: Not only you should be able to speak but also able to write. You should be able to not only speak but also write. You should not only be able to speak but also be ...
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Word Combination question [duplicate]

Certain words are often used in a fixed combination. As an example consider the phrase - 'hardly......when' as used in the sentence - "Hardly had I entered the room when the light went out." For ...
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1answer
422 views

A number off or a number of?

I am reading some technical documents and there is a list of items that make up the product. Throughout the document where there are multiple items, they are listed as 2 off, 3 off and so on. For ...
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1answer
143 views

Differences in the Semantics of Three Tri-Part Phrasal Verbs

What are the subtle semantic differences in the following three tri-part phrasal verbs: (1) be up against (2) come up against (3) run up against
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3answers
199 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 ...
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4answers
233 views

A prediction made in the past that affects something we will do in the future

Please ignore the factual accuracy of this sentence and focus on the tenses used. If the Mayans were wrong to end the calendar on Dec. 20, 2012, we'll use your donation to fund 2013 programming. ...
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775 views

Horse of a different color

I recently heard someone use the expression "Now that's a whole different bag of dog food". While highly unusualy, the meaning was well understood by the audience. I know there is an actual ...
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4answers
2k views

“Everything is everything”

I tried to google the phrase "everything is everything" but can't find its origin. Where does this phrase originally come from? What does it mean?
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1answer
701 views

What is the meaning of “zen is the art of being at one with the two'ness”

zen is the art of being at one with the two'ness What's the being at one? What's the two'ness? Why two'ness not twoness? I just don't know the meaning of this sentence.
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327 views

Is it “house is on fire” or “fire on the house”?

What are the origins behind our use of "house is on fire" as opposed to "fire is on the house"?
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14k views

'Today afternoon' vs 'Today in the afternoon'?

Which adverbial phrase of time is more grammatically correct: 'Today afternoon' or 'Today in the afternoon'?
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2k views

What/who are “toy soldiers”?

There is a song called Toy Soldiers by Martika of which a part of the lyrics goes: Step by step Heart to heart Left, right, left We all fall down Like toy soldiers Bit by bit Torn ...
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2answers
262 views

“fail to convey it”

Does "I fail to convey it" mean "I know but I don't explain it" or does it mean "I know and I try to explain it, but not well enough for people to understand it" or can it mean both? What's another ...
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3answers
5k views

What's the meaning of “a staple amongst the community”?

In this context: trying to become a staple amongst the community
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Movies 'based on' v. 'inspired by' true events

I have heard there is a difference between movies 'based on' verses those 'inspired by' true events. Does one relationship with the 'true events' have more license than another, or is it just the ...
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3answers
368 views

Is there a term for French words adopted by the English language, such as “hors d'oeuvres” or “objet d'art”

I would call them "Frenchisms" or some such -ism, but I figured I'd at least ask first. So is there a name for such adopted foreign phrases? Also, how about those adopted from languages other than ...
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1answer
1k views

What does “Fight through the pain” mean?

What does sentence "Fight through the pain" mean? I heard this sentence in XBox360 game Gears of War. Can the sentence be also used with other verbs - can it be simply expressed as pattern "Do ...
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“Which we discussed” vs. “about which we discussed”

Which one is correct? I’ve added changes/fixes which we discussed yesterday. or I’ve added changes/fixes about which we discussed yesterday.
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199 views

“Carry on” vs. “go ahead”

I am confused about whether it is okay to say, "Ok, carry on/go ahead with your job then." Any help on this simple issue is highly appreciated.
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2answers
72 views

Difference between 'retreated into' and 'retreated back into'

What is the difference between retreated into and retreated back into? They retreated into Pakistan
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4answers
312 views

A phrase to describe a “collection of false exaggerations”

I am looking for a phrase to describe a "collection of false exaggerations", something that can fit well in the following line: I am really shocked to see this, it seems that everything you told ...
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3answers
10k 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 ...
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3answers
180 views

“at all the vertices”, what does this mean?

My professor has written a statement like this: function is non-negative at all the vertices of the structure S and positive at some vertex for a publication. It is a peer-reviewed publication ...
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1answer
290 views

Under which cases should an article (a/an/the) not be used? [duplicate]

The current machine has been repaired. Current machine has been repaired. Which is more natural? What are the subtle differences between them? Under which cases should an article ...
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2answers
1k views

What is the courteous alternative of “Do you understand what I say?”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “Does it make sense?” or “Do you understand me?”? "Do you get me?", "Do you get my point?", etc? What is the courteous alternative of "Do you understand what I say?"?