Questions tagged [phrases]

This tag is for questions about phrases in the linguistic sense. In linguistics a “phrase” is a group of words that make a unit of syntax with a single grammatical function. Use [phrase-requests] if you are searching for a phrase.

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26
votes
3answers
3k views

Is it correct to hyphenate with compound premodifiers? If so, where is the hyphen placed?

For example, "file system" and "related". Is it "file system-related"? It will appear as if it is a compound of "file" and "system-related", won't it?
175
votes
6answers
402k views

When “etc.” is at the end of a phrase, do you place a period after it?

Example: It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc. VS. It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc.. Update What happens if the abbreviation is inside parentheses, do you place a dot ...
16
votes
4answers
18k views

“The thing is, is that…”

This is a phrase I've heard many people use, and it sounds wrong to me; e.g.: The thing about that is, is that she might take it the wrong way. It seems to treat "The thing [...] is"—the entire ...
16
votes
2answers
4k views

“Try to save” or “try saving”

Are both try to save the file and try saving the file grammatically correct? If so, is there any difference in meaning?
24
votes
7answers
109k views

What does “had had” mean? How does this differ from “had”?

For example, what is the difference between the following two sentences: I had a bad day I had had a bad day
20
votes
15answers
35k views

Phrase for focusing on unimportant details

I'm looking for an idiom or saying that I could use when people are focusing too much on small details and not seeing the big picture. A couple that come to mind are "being penny-wise and pound ...
18
votes
12answers
526k views

Which is correct: “drive safe” or “drive safely”?

When someone is going to drive their car somewhere, I always used to say "drive safely" to them. Recently I was told I should say "drive safe." (From: Would you ask someone to drive safe or to ...
7
votes
5answers
15k views

“Needs cleaned” or “needs to be cleaned”

I'm from Western Pennsylvania. Until I moved away, I never realized that when I omitted the to be from phrases like needs to be cleaned, my usage was different than what most English speakers are ...
15
votes
4answers
8k views

“How big of a problem” vs. “how big a problem”

Quite a few phrases in English are constructed like so: How [adjective] a [noun]...? This is the question form of the construction, which is often answered with the negative: Not that [...
19
votes
2answers
8k views

The construction of “Known but to God”

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider has the engraving "KNOWN BUT TO GOD", as presumably no man knows his name, but shouldn't it read "unknown, but to God", as the default for everyone is "unknown", with ...
19
votes
3answers
10k views

“to be all but X”

What does "all but" mean in this expression? Today, under pressure from P2P distribution, optical disc piracy in wealthy countries is "all but eliminated" and profit margins elsewhere are slim. ...
14
votes
1answer
14k views

Difference between phrase and idiom

What is the difference between a phrase and an idiom?
8
votes
2answers
9k views

Is there a name for “I don't mean to…, but” phrases?

"I don't mean to change the subject, but..." but you are changing the subject. "I don't mean to interrupt, but..." but you are interrupting. Is there a name for these type of "polite" phrases?
20
votes
5answers
28k views

Origin of “Fits [x] to a T”?

The above phrase is something I've known for as long as I can remember, though I don't know from where. What is its origin and usage?
6
votes
7answers
5k views

what does the phrase “a real word” mean?

Twentyfive questions appear in the list of questions already asked on this forum that are similar to this question. Of those, 8 titles do not mention the "real word" phrase. The other 17 ask about a ...
11
votes
2answers
20k views

What's the origin of “I'm down with it”?

I understand it's an expression of agreement. What exactly does it mean and where did it originate from?
6
votes
6answers
4k views

One's brilliant vocabulary and a tendency to show it off [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What’s a big-vocabulary word for someone with a big vocabulary? There are people who are blessed with a remarkable knowledge of vocabulary and diction – people who can come up ...
23
votes
4answers
91k views

“It's all downhill from here”—meaning and etymology

The phrase "it was all downhill from there" seems to have two, contradictory meanings. The first indicates that things have since gotten a lot worse. For example (from http://bleacherreport.com/...
18
votes
7answers
11k views

Is Apple's Old Slogan, “Think Different”, grammatically incorrect?

Not too long ago, Apple Computer used the phrase "Think Different" as an ad slogan. Is this a grammatical error (that is, it should be "Think Differently"), or are they trying to say something else (...
3
votes
6answers
2k views

Is 'low speed' finally proving its merit?

Technically, you should expect the term low speed, not slow speed (which is obviously illogical). However, it seems the two phrases co-existed as long as one can look back: with low speed fighting ...
53
votes
8answers
265k views

When your 10-year old boy says “It’s meta,” what does it mean? In what situation and of what sort of object they use this phrase?

I asked about the meaning and usage of meta a few days ago, quoting Maureen Dowd’s review of the movie, “J. Edgar” in New York Times. I received six answers. But I still don’t get a clear idea of ...
34
votes
10answers
169k views

“The point is moot”

I was recently called out for using the phrase "the point is moot" incorrectly. My intent was to indicate that I felt that the point wasn't really worth debating or discussing. I was then shown that ...
52
votes
6answers
125k views

“jury-rigged”, or “jerry-rigged”

As far back as I can remember, the usage went something like "Their jury was rigged, and that's how he got away." Or, "They Jerry-rigged the controller at the last moment and it worked!" I used to ...
36
votes
16answers
8k views

Phrase for a situation where a problem disappears when you are about to fix it, but reappears later

For example, the car mechanic can't replicate the problem you are having every day, but when you drive it off the service dept, there it is again. Or, when seeing the dentist, the tooth ache goes away,...
21
votes
5answers
7k views

Is employing hyperbaton correct in English?

I've often seen the sentence structure "____ does not a ____ make" which I've now discovered is called hyperbaton. the use, especially for emphasis, of a word order other than the expected or ...
10
votes
2answers
120k views

The phrase “let alone”

I notice that "let alone" is used in sentences that have a comma. The structure of the sentence is what comes before the comma is some kind of negative statement. Right after the comma is "let alone," ...
5
votes
4answers
1k views

Is it common to use the borrowed noun-adjective form for borrowed French phrases?

Lately, something has struck me. I've been hearing several expressions in English, some clearly borrowed from French and preserving their noun-adjective form. Some examples are: Attorney General ...
2
votes
2answers
8k views

What is the origin of the phrase “not to mention …”

Of course whatever follows would seem to be precisely the thing that isn't to be mentioned. EDIT: I'm assuming that the phrase must have evolved from something more complete/cumbersome, like "and of ...
18
votes
8answers
15k views

Ripe with Opportunity? Or Rife?

The Grammarist says I should use rife with rather than ripe with. So far so good and I agree. But is there an exception for ripe with opportunity? Googlefight overwhelmingly prefers ripe, and I like ...
3
votes
6answers
3k views

“Have some reason you” or “Have some reason why you”

Can the "why" be removed from the phrase "have some reason why you?" Example: Do you have some reason you ____? vs. Do you have some reason why you ____? Are these both grammatically correct? ...
30
votes
6answers
198k views

Is “my bad” a correct English phrase?

I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?
19
votes
4answers
111k views

Is “this Monday” or “next Monday” the correct way to refer to the very next Monday in the future? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What day is next Tuesday? When I refer to the very next Monday that will occur in the future, I say "next Monday". Some colleagues refer to it as "this Monday", with "next ...
34
votes
5answers
260k views

Origin of the phrase, “There's more than one way to skin a cat.”

The meaning is clear, but where did this phrase originate? Was it always such a gruesome reference?
31
votes
3answers
11k views

What does the suffix “‑fu” mean?

Can anyone tell me what the suffix “‑fu” stands for in the following sentence? If you want to take advantage of some other Spring-fu, like some of its aspect-oriented features, then you’ll need to ...
31
votes
11answers
11k views

Is there a word/term for a question where the asker knows he'll criticise any answer?

What do you call it when a person asks somebody a question when they know they'll criticise any answer regardless? For instance, a man asks you something like "If you were recruiting staff would you ...
15
votes
10answers
76k views

I’m looking for a word or phrase that describes the feeling that something very bad or catastrophic is about to happen

It may be something that will happen to the person who is having the feeling but it may also be to several persons, as might occur with a highly destructive earthquake, for instance. The word or ...
10
votes
9answers
361k views

Other ways to say “I'm rooting for you?”

What are other ways one can say that have the same meaning as, "I'm rooting for you?"
16
votes
10answers
74k views

What does “I know, right?” mean?

Not only is my seventh grader using this phrase, but her teachers are as well. I suppose it means I totally agree with you and you totally agree with me but it sounds like there is a subtle Is that ...
13
votes
4answers
7k views

Is “incorrect facts” a contradiction in terms?

I've seen this so many times and it drives me crazy. The latest was the actor Paul Giamatti setting some story straight in the press about him: "It's unfortunately an incorrect fact about me and it's ...
12
votes
3answers
14k views

What does “All things X” mean?

I've seen the expression in some company names; for example All things data, All things gym. Is the expression "All things X" a parody of some other popular phrase, or does it have its own meaning? ...
9
votes
6answers
21k views

What does “my point being” mean?

I have heard someone say in a conversation, "Well, my point being,,,". As an English learner, I was puzzled but assumed that it was roughly the same as saying "My point is that..." or "Here's my point:...
17
votes
6answers
77k views

How did the phrase “are you nuts” come about?

What is the connection between "nut" and the character? How was the phrase "are you nuts?" used at first?
15
votes
6answers
164k views

“Good night” or “good evening”?

If it's 7:30pm, which of these phrases is correct, Good night or Good evening?
15
votes
5answers
7k views

Please explain “I Am America (And So Can You!)”

As a non-native speaker, I found Stephen Colbert’s book title I Am America (And So Can You!) a little hard to dissect. Why so can you? Why isn’t it So Are You? What’s the full phrase that And So Can ...
13
votes
2answers
57k views

“During summer” vs. “during the summer”

What is the difference between saying "during summer" and "during the summer"? As in: I work during the summer. I work during summer. Are both common? Is my feeling correct that the first ...
9
votes
7answers
21k views

What does “suck it up and go” mean?

I came across the phrase, “suck it up and go” in the columnist’s answer to a question from a reader of Carolyn Hax's column in Washington Post’s “Lifestyle” section (July 2nd). The Q&A titled “...
9
votes
7answers
68k views

What is the meaning of “Many a mickle makes a muckle”?

I've heard this phrase, and don't know what a "mickle" or a "muckle" is. Hence I have no idea at all what the phrase itself is supposed to mean.
7
votes
3answers
31k views

Somebody is gonna kiss the donkey

I heard this phrase when I was watching Battleship. An old man said, "Somebody is gonna kiss the donkey." I do not know what it means, I only heard it in a movie. What is this phrase mean? In ...
6
votes
4answers
7k views

Origin of the phrase “social justice warrior”

What is the origin of the phrase "social justice warrior"? RationalWiki says that the phrase "social justice" (without warrior) originated in the 1840s. Searching twitter for top tweets about "...
17
votes
4answers
141k views

What does the phrase “good for you” mean?

What does this phrase mean? And in what cases is it appropriate to use it?

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