I am not a native English speaker and this question has been bothering me for a long time. I saw this sentence on my text book. However, I don't know what's the meaning of it. And I don't even know whether it's a correct sentence (in terms of syntax). Could somebody help me?

  • 2
    The sentence does not follow the usual syntax of English, but sentences of this specific form have a history. Oct 29, 2010 at 14:18
  • Just out of curiosity, what was the text book about?
    – Jaime Soto
    Oct 29, 2010 at 15:09
  • @ShreevatsaR: Thank you. I had thought I missed something in English grammar.
    – LLS
    Oct 31, 2010 at 17:17
  • @Jaime Soto: Introduction to Corporate Finance. Or something like it. (I am not sure about the exact title of that book right now and I don't remember the author)
    – LLS
    Oct 31, 2010 at 17:18

3 Answers 3


This may be related to the sentence Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose by Gertrude Stein. According to Wikipedia

"A rose is a rose is a rose" is probably her most famous quote, often interpreted as meaning "things are what they are," a statement of the law of identity, "A is A". In Stein's view, the sentence expresses the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it.

Quoting Wikipedia again, the law of identity article claims that

In logic, the law of identity states that an object is the same as itself: A ≡ A.

  • I really like this answer. It shows that a good answer is more about just finding the best sources but how you use them and which parts of them that you use to make the answer easily understood. +1 :) Apr 29, 2011 at 5:47
  • And Stein was probably echoing Shakespeare: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Aug 10, 2012 at 21:23

A good example of usage of this is when a government replaces one tax with another.

For example, the old 11% tax was only on goods, but the new 7% tax is on goods and services.

One person says the new tax means people will pay less taxes.

A person could counter and say: "It doesn't matter, really. A tax is a tax is a tax."

Or in other words, what they "call" the tax is irrelevant, and doesn't change the fact that I'm still paying a tax.

Or maybe, a government gets rid of a restaurant tax, but the restaurant adds mandatory tipping.

"A tax is a tax is a tax" would imply that the speaker still feels that he's paying a tax on the food/service. "Call it a tip if you want, a tax is a tax is a tax"

  • An even better usage: in 1999, Governor George Ryan said he wouldn't raise taxes, but he more than doubled the yearly license plate "fee", as well as various excise "fees" for things like cigarettes. If one had to pay the state of Illinois a $0.50 (or whatever it was) when one buys a package of cigarettes, even if King George called it a "fee", it was a tax. I don't think I'd go along with your last example, since taxes go to governments, not waitstaff. King George's "fees", though, went to government, and had to be paid in the same circumstances as taxes, so that's what they were.
    – supercat
    Apr 6, 2014 at 23:00

It is just a reinforcement:

A tax is a tax, and there is no way around that fact.

A tax is a tax, nothing more and nothing less.

A tax is a tax, and will be one forever.

Things are what they are.

  • I guess I can feel the meaning from your answer. Thank you.
    – LLS
    Oct 31, 2010 at 17:16

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