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

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2answers
900 views

How to connect a word and a phrase with a hyphen?

For example, "file system" and "related". Is it "file system-related"? It will appear as if it is a compound of "file" and "system-related", won't it?
63
votes
4answers
82k views

When “etc.” is at the end of a phrase, do you place a period after it?

Example: It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc. VS. It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc..
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votes
4answers
5k views

“The thing is, is that…”

This is a phrase I've heard many people use, and it sounds wrong to me; e.g.: The thing about that is, is that she might take it the wrong way. It seems to treat "The thing [...] is"—the entire ...
10
votes
2answers
730 views

“Try to save” or “try saving”

Are both try to save the file and try saving the file grammatically correct? If so, is there any difference in meaning?
16
votes
3answers
3k views

“to be all but X”

What does "all but" mean in this expression? Today, under pressure from P2P distribution, optical disc piracy in wealthy countries is "all but eliminated" and profit margins elsewhere are slim. ...
10
votes
7answers
22k views

What does “had had” mean? How does this differ from “had”?

For example, what is the difference between the following two sentences: I had a bad day I had had a bad day
15
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4answers
10k views

Origin of “Fits [x] to a T”?

The above phrase is something I've known for as long as I can remember, though I don't know from where. What is its origin and usage?
13
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14answers
5k views

Phrase for focusing on unimportant details

I'm looking for an idiom or saying that I could use when people are focusing too much on small details and not seeing the big picture. A couple that come to mind are "being penny-wise and pound ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

The construction of “Known but to God”

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider has the engraving "KNOWN BUT TO GOD", as presumably no man knows his name, but shouldn't it read "unknown, but to God", as the default for everyone is "unknown", with ...
6
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7answers
73k views

Which is correct: “drive safe” or “drive safely”?

Which one is correct? Similarly, is "do good" correct?
4
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5answers
1k views

“Needs cleaned” or “needs to be cleaned”

I'm from Western Pennsylvania. Until I moved away, I never realized that when I omitted the to be from phrases like needs to be cleaned, my usage was different than what most English speakers are ...
13
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1answer
3k views

Difference between phrase and idiom

What is the difference between a phrase and an idiom?
2
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the origin of the phrase “not to mention …”

Of course whatever follows would seem to be precisely the thing that isn't to be mentioned. EDIT: I'm assuming that the phrase must have evolved from something more complete/cumbersome, like "and of ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

“How big of a problem” vs. “how big a problem”

Quite a few phrases in English are constructed like so: How [adjective] a [noun]...? This is the question form of the construction, which is often answered with the negative: Not that ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a name for “I don't mean to…, but” phrases?

"I don't mean to change the subject, but..." but you are changing the subject. "I don't mean to interrupt, but..." but you are interrupting. Is there a name for these type of "polite" ...
6
votes
6answers
10k views

“Good night” or “good evening”?

If it's 7:30pm, which of these phrases is correct, Good night or Good evening?
2
votes
6answers
742 views

Is 'low speed' finally proving its merit?

Technically, you should expect the term low speed, not slow speed (which is obviously illogical). However, it seems the two phrases co-existed as long as one can look back: with low speed fighting ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Is employing hyperbaton correct in English?

I've often seen the sentence structure "____ does not a ____ make" which I've now discovered is called hyperbaton. the use, especially for emphasis, of a word order other than the expected or ...
15
votes
5answers
48k views

Origin of the phrase, “There's more than one way to skin a cat.”

The meaning is clear, but where did this phrase originate? Was it always such a gruesome reference?
5
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6answers
1k views

One's brilliant vocabulary and a tendency to show it off [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What’s a big-vocabulary word for someone with a big vocabulary? There are people who are blessed with a remarkable knowledge of vocabulary and diction – people who can ...
2
votes
5answers
404 views

“Have some reason you” or “Have some reason why you”

Can the "why" be removed from the phrase "have some reason why you?" Example: Do you have some reason you ____? vs. Do you have some reason why you ____? Are these both grammatically ...
6
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4answers
10k views

In what case you would say “I am seeing” instead of “I see”?

In what case you would say "I am seeing" instead of "I see"?
19
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3answers
2k views

What does the suffix “‑fu” mean?

Can anyone tell me what the suffix “‑fu” stands for in the following sentence? If you want to take advantage of some other Spring-fu, like some of its aspect-oriented features, then you’ll need to ...
16
votes
6answers
20k views

Is “my bad” a correct English phrase?

I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?
4
votes
4answers
8k views

What does “suck it up and go” mean?

I came across the phrase, “suck it up and go” in the columnist’s answer to a question from a reader of Carolyn Hax's column in Washington Post’s “Lifestyle” section (July 2nd). The Q&A titled ...
4
votes
4answers
580 views

What do you call the exploitation of ambiguous statements to form a logical argument?

If I were construct an argument containing the postulation Men commit more crimes than women. I would be guilty of a logical fallacy because this statement implies All men commit crimes. The ...
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5answers
2k views

Please explain “I Am America (And So Can You!)”

As a non-native speaker, I found Stephen Colbert’s book title I Am America (And So Can You!) a little hard to dissect. Why so can you? Why isn’t it So Are You? What’s the full phrase that And So Can ...
9
votes
8answers
16k views

What does “I know, right?” mean?

Not only is my seventh grader using this phrase, but her teachers are as well. I suppose it means I totally agree with you and you totally agree with me but it sounds like there is a subtle Is that ...
8
votes
4answers
637 views

“Back up data” or “back data up”?

Which is correct? To back up data. To back data up. The context is the following: He was careful enough to perform tests and [back up data | back data up] to avoid any problems.
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8answers
1k views

What would you call a person who is not a student, but takes interest in exploring academic topics?

A person who is not formally enrolled as a student, researcher or faculty in some university or college but who takes interest in exploring academic topics/stuff. For e.g. Such a person could be ...
5
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1answer
4k views

What's the origin of “I'm down with it”?

I understand it's an expression of agreement. What exactly does it mean and where did it originate from?
5
votes
2answers
6k views

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," ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

What does “pull sb. out of the hat” mean?

I found the phrase, “pull her out of the hat” in the following sentence of the quote from Frank Bailey, the most relied-upon former aide of Ms.Sarah Palin, whose memoir, “Blind Allegiance to Sarah ...
5
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the origin of the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”?

I thought it'd be frightfully easy to find the etymology of this cliche on the Internet, but so far I haven't had any luck! It wont even tell me if its a maxim or not!
5
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2answers
13k views

“Tit for tat”—Where does this come from?

I always ask myself where this saying originates. I only know the individual words, tit and tat, but why is this a saying?
4
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2answers
797 views

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!" ...
15
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20answers
7k views

Are there other idioms like “a stone's throw away” that both describe an activity and act as a measurement?

If something is quite close by, it could be described as being a stone's throw away; even closer might be a hop, skip and a jump. I'm interested in these "units" of measurement based on human action. ...
43
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4answers
36k views

What does “something 101” mean? [closed]

Many times I saw the phrase something 101, such as Microsoft Excel 101. What exactly does it mean?
25
votes
8answers
61k views

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 ...
18
votes
5answers
88k views

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.
14
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4answers
8k views

“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?
7
votes
7answers
1k views

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 / ...
25
votes
6answers
11k views

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 ...
21
votes
9answers
3k views

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 ...
11
votes
3answers
21k views

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 ...
8
votes
5answers
3k views

“Replace with” versus “replace by”

I often see "replace with" and "replace by" used interchangeably, but this doesn't sound right to me: I replaced that component by this one. I would use "with" in such a sentence. "By" only ...
20
votes
8answers
14k views

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 ...
16
votes
5answers
11k views

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 ...
15
votes
6answers
3k views

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 ...
12
votes
1answer
746 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?