I read this sentence on TIME (Oct.23 2017),

Having announced that he will retire at the end of 2018, Corker, once a key Trump ally, could emerge as a leading check on some of the President’s worst impulses. As enduring as Trump’s support is among his shrinking base, the war of words was a reminder that rest of the GOP would turn on Trump in a minute if given a consequence-free chance.

I don't understand the meaning of the "consequence-free chance", will somebody please be kind enough to explain it?

  • 1
    Meaning that Trump tends to be retaliatory against those of either party who publicly criticize him. Oct 28, 2017 at 13:51
  • @MarkHubbard you should write an answer, your comment provides explanation of context which is very important to understanding expressions, combined with the explanation of what "consequence-free" means. Oct 28, 2017 at 14:51
  • Thank you. I would, but Clare and Jeff Morrow have already provided very useful answers. Oct 28, 2017 at 15:10
  • 1
    By the way, you should have said "read it in Time". I know that in Italian you read things "on" a book or newspaper, and I suppose your native language has the same rule. Never take English prepositions for granted! :)
    – Nicole
    Nov 2, 2017 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


"Chance" here is used in its sense of "opportunity."

"Consequence-free" is a compound adjective meaning "without any harmful result."

Thus, a "consequence-free chance" means an "opportunity [to act] without any result that may harm [the actor]."

  • i get it now, i thought "free changce" was phrase.
    – lucas
    Oct 30, 2017 at 3:37

It's not free chance you want to look at, but consequence-free as a modifier of chance. This means a chance that is free of consequence.

Let's look at other uses of -free, including a couple of curious ones, for a broader understanding...

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines

-free as meaning

Clear of something which is regarded as objectionable or problematic.

Yes, sometimes a consequence can be 'problematic'.

Other examples from the OED include


There are also


This is similar to one definition of free

Released from ties, obligations, or constraints upon one's action. (OED)

The definition continues

Often used with reference to love and marriage; sometimes also (chiefly Sc.) with the sense ‘unmarried, single’.

The OED offers

fancy-free, which it defines as

free from the power of love

and gives uses from 1600 (Shakespeare) and 1800 (Thackeray)

The Oxford Dictionary online defines it as

Not emotionally involved with or committed to anyone.

Another OED definition of free is

Released or exempt from, not liable to (a rule, penalty, or payment)

and offers

"Free from toll; exempt from payment of toll. "

Which does mean 'free from scots' but not 'free from the Scots'. A scot was a A tax or tribute paid by a feudal tenant to his or her lord or ruler in proportion to ability to pay; a similar tax paid to a sheriff or bailiff (OED). So scot-free is not only the literal 'free from this tax' but also

Without being punished; without suffering injury or harm.

So, consequence-free goes along with all these other examples of free from ties, obligations, or constraints upon one's action.

  • it's a vey detailed answer you posted ,thanks a million times. i get it now.
    – lucas
    Oct 30, 2017 at 3:39

'Consequence-free' is a very interesting choice of words.

It is actually far stronger than the usual expression 'risk-free'.

The Ngram of 'risk-free' shows how popular this expression has become, rising exponentially since the 1960s.

Risk-free :used to describe something that does not involve any risk . . . Cambridge

But the writer of the article did not say 'risk-free'.

The writer, above, sees this situation as worse than a risk (at present) and sees it as a 'consequence' that something unpleasant will happen. It is not a risk, is what is being stated, it is a downright certainty.

Therefore, says the writer, certain people wait, until the situation is free of consequence, before they act, safely.

Consequence : a result of a particular action or situation, often one that is bad or not convenient . . . . Cambridge

  • I’m guessing that the huge increase in the use of “risk-free” is because of its heavy use in modern economic theory and finance. Especially in the context of “risk-free” rate, an interest rate on a bank deposit, for example.
    – Logophile
    Nov 13, 2017 at 9:47

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