I have been watching a good British drama (Downtown abbey) and this sentence is from that drama.

It is from a dialogue between a servant who is waiting for his dismissal and the head of the servants(Mr.Carson) after a dinner. So, the servant is worried that he will be fired and is asking questions to Mr.Carson trying to find out when -or if- he will be dismissed from his job soon.

Here is the whole of dialogue:

  • The servant: Mr Carson, I don't suppose there's any more news on when you'll be serving notice?

  • Mr. Carson: Nobody's going to be flung into the road, I can assure you.

  • The servant: No, but I mean... should I start looking for another job?

  • Mr. Carson: How could it hurt?

The dialogue ends there.

And I really can't understand what does Mr. Carson means by saying "How could it hurt"?

I have searched for the sentence on the Internet thinking it might be a phrase or a proverb, etc. But it seems it is not.

Do you know what does "How could it hurt" means here?

Thank you.

  • It's just another way of saying "it won't hurt". Not sure if this could be called an idiom.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 17, 2018 at 14:32
  • 1
    @MrLister: I suspect that if the OP didn't understand the original question, they won't understand that idiom either. Chasly's answer explains it.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 17, 2018 at 14:57
  • @ColinFine I wasn't sure - that's why I didn't post an answer - but I thought maybe the OP had misunderstood the phrasing, since it was put as a question.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 17, 2018 at 15:30
  • 1
    @MrLister: I think 392 written instances of but how could it hurt...? and 6620 of *but it can't hurt to (take some precautionary action) are enough to say it is an "idiomatic usage". There's usually the implication that the suggested course of action might well not improve the situation - but there are no real downsides to doing it, so it's worth making the effort on the off-chance that it will help. Dec 17, 2018 at 15:42
  • The implied part of the phrase that's always omitted is But there's a chance it could help. If it couldn't help, there would be no point in considering it. Dec 18, 2018 at 3:32

1 Answer 1


"How could it hurt" = "What harm could it do [to start looking for another job]?

In other words, "You might as well start looking for another job, because no harm will come of that."

From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

something won’t/doesn’t hurt

spoken said when you think someone should do something or that something is a good idea

The house looks pretty good, but a fresh paint job wouldn’t hurt either.

it won’t/doesn’t hurt (somebody) to do something

It won’t hurt Julia to get up early for a change.


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