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I've seen the phrase used often in information about the WWI Gallipoli campaign ("forcing the straits" or "force the Dardanelles").

I know what force means (power, or using power to attain a goal). I know what a strait is (narrow passage between land masses).

But this particular construct eludes me, precisely. I've never heard it used until reading about Gallipoli today.

I can guess - it seems to mean to barrel your way through, or to attack, a strait.

https://www.deseret.com/2015/4/22/20563269/this-week-in-history-allied-forces-land-at-gallipoli

"Several attempts were made to force the strait..."

https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2015/4/24/the-battle-of-gallipoli

"...send a fleet to force the Strait..."

So does it mean to make your way through (a temporary state), or to take complete control (permanently)?

More to the inspiration of my question: the quotes do NOT say to force one's way through the strait. Simply, to "force the strait".

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  • Can you provide some example paragraphs for us? What does the context of the phrase tell you?
    – DjinTonic
    Mar 29, 2022 at 13:33
  • Try looking up the following two words: 'strait' and 'force' (the verb). Once you find what a 'strait' is, Wikipedia the word 'Dardanelles'. You will then quickly what the two words have to do with each other.
    – Tuffy
    Mar 29, 2022 at 13:45
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    Have you looked up the verb 'force' in dictionaries? To be fair, only nearby senses are in most dictionaries, for instance Collins: << force [verb] [with object]: If someone forces a lock, a door, or a window, they break the lock or fastening in order to get into a building without using a key. That evening police forced the door of the flat ... >> . CD: << to use ... Mar 29, 2022 at 13:46
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    physical strength or effort to make something move or open: She forced her way through the crowd >> Here, 'force N' with N a suitable noun means 'force one's way through N [against opposition]'. Mar 29, 2022 at 13:49

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'Barrel your way through' is a nice synonym.

Perhaps Lexico gets closest of all the freely available dictionaries to defining this usage:

force verb [with object]:

1 Make a way through or into by physical strength; break open by force.

  • the back door of the bank was forced

But the direct objects in this usage are restricted. As Collins says,

force [verb] {sense 5} [with object]:

If someone forces a lock, a door, or a window, they break the lock or fastening in order to get into a building without using a key.

  • That evening police forced the door of the flat

The following Google 3-grams strongly suggest that DOs such as 'straits', 'pass', 'valley' are not unknown, they are rarely used in comparison with say the arguably less nebulous 'lock'.

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