My sister married a man who treated her badly. Her husband didn't respect her at all. After one year , they split up. After hearing that news , I called my sister and said :

Don't worry. I think you'll marry the man who deserves you. I strongly believe that you did the right thing.

Is this sentence idiomatic in English?

Thank you.

  • 1
    If she initiated the split, then it is. A cursory search for the term should give you many examples, in similar circumstances. – JHCL Oct 24 '15 at 11:36
  • Yes, my sister initiated the split. – keramus Oct 24 '15 at 11:39
  • @JHCL What does initiation of the split have to do with "you did the right thing"? She might have accepted what hur husband initiated. – user140086 Oct 24 '15 at 11:47
  • Drop the unnecessary "that" which precedes "you," and the sentence looks fine. Is it idiomatic? No. Don – rhetorician Oct 24 '15 at 11:49
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    Spike Lee even made a movie using it for the title. Although it's hard to see this as "idomatic" since it is a literal expression. – Robusto Oct 24 '15 at 11:51

Yes, this sentence is correct, and it is idiomatic:

do the right thing

To act or behave correctly, appropriately, or with the best intentions.


You could've said, "What you did was appropriate, your actions were correct". Instead, you used a natural English idiom to get the same message across.

Note the the word "idiom" has several meanings (it's a polysemic word). Consider:

Meaning 1: a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language

Meaning 4: an expression whose meanings cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up

(Princeton WordNet)

  • No problem, glad I could help. – A.P. Oct 24 '15 at 12:31
  • Just a slight addition to your fine answer. "Do the right thing" may in fact be somewhat idiomatic, but not as clearly as, say, "Jim is a stand-up guy," which would be difficult to interpret for a person whose first language is not English. That's all. Don – rhetorician Oct 24 '15 at 14:24
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    @rhetorician Thank you for your comment. I agree that do the right thing is an order of magnitude more understandable to a non-native speaker than, say, "under the weather" or "kick the bucket". But it's idiomatic in the sense of being part of natural parlance. Perhaps that's the reason thefreedictionary.com places it under Idioms. – A.P. Oct 24 '15 at 15:18

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