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I was studying English, so I downloaded a comprehension reading test and I found a phrase which I can't understand:

Seat belts save lives and that's a fact. That's why I don't drive anywhere until mine is on tight.

I think that it's an idiom because I don't find word definitions that help me understand the phrase.

  • 15
    A seatbelt is something you put on, and you can make it tight. – Robusto Sep 22 '19 at 21:14
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    'on tight' is not usually hyphenated. – Michael Harvey Sep 22 '19 at 21:38
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    @AldairRev - Maybe what's hanging you up is "Mine is on." Compare this with: A: Please put on your jacket. B: I already have it on. What B meant was, "I am already wearing my jacket. – aparente001 Sep 23 '19 at 5:00
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    "on tightly" would be clearer but less idiomatic; a comma after on would increase both parts. – Tim Lymington Sep 23 '19 at 11:06
  • "Put your seat belts on, kids". i.e. fasten them. – Lambie Dec 31 '19 at 19:05
39

It's not an idiom. Each word means exactly what it says.

Mine means 'my one', referring back to the seat belt.

On tight means exactly what it says - fitted securely. So

I will not drive anywhere until my seat belt is fitted securely.

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  • 7
    also note that the implied object of the preposition 'on' is [me], and 'tight' is adverbial, so a paraphrase would be "until my seat belt is on me tightly". – AmI Sep 23 '19 at 5:53
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    I'd say that "on" means "worn, donned," not "attached." Just like how "I have a hat on" indicates that the hat is worn, not that the hat is attached. – Tanner Swett Sep 23 '19 at 10:58
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    'on' can have very many meanings. I would not disagree with 'worn' here. – DJClayworth Sep 23 '19 at 12:53
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    I think it's worth being explicit that using "tight" as an adverb here is colloquial. I think it would be clearer to change it to "... until mine is on tightly", or perhaps even "... until mine is on, tightly". – Glenn Willen Sep 24 '19 at 15:34
  • Colloquial but extremely common. – DJClayworth Sep 24 '19 at 15:35
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" I don't drive anywhere until mine is on tight."

If you built this sentence bit by bit, it would go like this:

  1. I don't drive anywhere until my belt is on.
  2. I don't drive anywhere until my belt is on tight. [the belt is tight, snugly fit]
  3. I don't drive anywhere until mine is on tight.

So each word (after until) means this:

  • Until: while the following doesn't occur.
  • Mine: reffers to [my] "seat belt" in the previous sentence.
  • Is on: the belt is on = the belt is in place [i.e. the belt is fastened]
  • Tight: the belt is fastened tight [i.e. the belt is tight and safety is assured].
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