I'm struggling to find examples of something I swear I've heard being said before, and I just want to make sure I'm using the saying correctly and in the right context.

Say you're working on a project that involves using a specific software, which the boss knows is buggy or limiting. The boss talks to you about the end result and isn't happy, but he says this:

"It's not a knock against you, I'm sure you did the best under these circumstances."

Is that a correct way to use it? And if not, what should you say instead? Maybe I just misheard the saying if I'm using it wrong.

2 Answers 2


I would understand what you meant, though I've never heard the expression. I have heard the expression "It's not a black mark against you" which takes the same form.

Personally, I'd suggest using "It's not a criticism of you" as a plainer expression of the same idea.


The other answer is correct, but I wanted to supply some references.

knock against from McGraw hill:

to bump against someone or something. Mickey knocked against Mary and said he was sorry. I didn't mean to knock against your sore knee.

Both of the examples are quite literal there.

knock from Collins via TFD


  1. (tr) informal to criticize adversely; belittle: to knock someone's work.


  1. informal unfavourable criticism

So, from those definitions, we can replace the words "knock against" in your sentence with "unfavourable criticism":

"It's not an unfavourable criticism of you, I'm sure you did the best under these circumstances."

It sounds kind of clunky when put that way, but it demonstrates that you are using the phrase correctly.

  • Your verb reference from McGraw Hill isn't much use, but your noun reference from Collins is.
    – AndyT
    Feb 22, 2019 at 11:32

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