Let's say you are watching an Indiana Jones movie, wherein Indiana Jones would have died if the rope was unloosen during a cliff climbing scene, which was a life-and-death situation. Can you say:

Oh! He would have been dead by now, if the rope was unloosen.

  • (after reading the corrections) Oh! He would have been dead by now, if the rope had come loose.
  • Oh! He would have been dead by now, if the rope was loosened.


If the rope would have gotten loose, he will probably die.

  • (''Have'' changed into ''had'') If the rope had gotten loose, he will probably die.

I am not sure if I correctly used the verb loose, are they both correct?

  • 1
    "if the rope was unloosen" is not correct for a couple reasons. Firstly, loosen means "become loose", so "unloosen" would actually mean "become tight"! Also, you're using the passive voice in the rope was ____, but the passive voice requires the past participle, which would be loosened. – stangdon Apr 20 '18 at 17:33
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    In AmE unloosen: merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/unloosen but it would not be used here for a rope. – Lambie Apr 20 '18 at 18:03
  • @stangdon - Counterintuitively enough, unloosen is synonymous with loosen. – J.R. Apr 20 '18 at 19:48
  • 4
    "...had gotten loose" is not a good choice. That phrase is usually used when someone (or some animal) escapes captivity: it's not appropriate for an inanimate object like a rope. You'd use it in a sentence like, "It was good you closed the front door because otherwise the cat could have gotten loose and run into the street." – Canadian Yankee Apr 20 '18 at 20:01
  • @J.R.- true that; "York, unloose your long imprison'd thoughts, And let thy tongue be equal with thy heart" - but I've never heard unloosened used that way. – stangdon Apr 20 '18 at 20:41

If the rope had come loose, he would have died.

If the rope had come untied, he would have died.

If the rope had become untethered, he would have died.

A rope comes loose when it is tethered (secured) by a piton to a rock or tied around a rock and then comes undone where it is anchored. It becomes untethered.

A rope is loosened, when you are tied up by a bad guy (for example), and the bad guy makes the rope tying you up, looser, not so tight.

  • The last 2 sentences in your answer seems illogical, ''a rope comes loose when it is unthethered''( I think this is what you mean) also, A rope is loosened when you are not tied up properly by a bad guy... – John Arvin Apr 20 '18 at 18:38
  • Do we realy use ''come loose', instead of ''become loose''? – John Arvin Apr 20 '18 at 18:44
  • Yes, we do say come loose: the boat came loose from its moorings. You will see examples: mountain climbing + rope came loose. A rope is not loosened when you are tied up by a bad guy. A bad guy can loosen the ropes tied around your hands and feet. And people often loosen their belts when the belt is too tight. – Lambie Apr 20 '18 at 19:32
  • For the record: loosen means that a thing is held less tightly than before: loosen one's grip on something; loosen a rope, loosen a necktie, loosen the strings [puppets], to loosen restrictions, loosen bonds to a community, etc. The thing is still held by something else but not so tightly or tautly as before. – Lambie Apr 20 '18 at 19:41
  • I believe it is prusik not prussick en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prusik – John Arvin Apr 20 '18 at 21:32

Loosen is an unusual word, in that loosen and unloose are synonyms, even though they look like they might be antonyms.

Two verbs you can use in your scenario are to loosen or to unloose. Again, even though they appear like they are antonymns, they can be used synonymously:

When he comes home from work, Ted loosens his tie.

When he comes home from work, Ted unlooses his tie.

To make matters even more confusing, the word loose can be used as a verb or as an adjective.

So, you could write your sentences in many ways, including:

He would have died if the rope was unloosed.

He would have died if the rope had loosened.

If the rope had loosed, he probably would have died.

If the rope had become loose, he probably would have died.

Quick definitions (all adapted from Macmillan, taken from OneLook):

  • unloose (v.) to untie something, or to make it looser
  • loosen (v.) to become or make something less tightly fastened or less firmly fixed
  • loose (v.) to become or make loose, looser, or less tight
  • loose (adj.) not firmly fixed or tied
  • Got them all, but one last thing, can we say ''He would have died if the rope was unloosed.'' I think stangdon is correct coz' it is not a parallel sentence specifically the active-passive form kind of thing. – John Arvin Apr 20 '18 at 19:01
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    A climbing rope could be loosened without causing a person to fall off a mountain. In fact, climbers often loosen or tighten ropes. – Lambie Apr 20 '18 at 19:28
  • @Lambie - What you say is quite true, but the OP has indicated in the question that they are asking about using the verb loosen correctly. Ergo, my answer focuses more on grammar than mountaineering. – J.R. Apr 20 '18 at 19:44
  • He did say it was a "cliff-climbing" scene and the guy could have died. That's why I changed it to another verb. – Lambie Apr 20 '18 at 19:48
  • @L - He did say he wanted to learn more about the verb loosen. That's why I included examples with a necktie. – J.R. Apr 20 '18 at 19:49

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