Suppose your child is about to untie the bow on his shirt & you say "leave it as it is".

is it idiomatic to say "leave it as it is" when you want someone not to alter the current structure of something?

Also, are "leave it what it is" or "leave it where it is" idiomatic?

Note: when I googled "define: 'leave it as it is'", it showed no definition, but just 1 forum. I am not sure I can trust the definition in the forum.

  • 1
    Yes, it is idiomatic. Mar 31, 2020 at 8:15
  • Yes it is idiomatic - can you add in detail of any research you have done, perhaps say why you think it might not be idiomatic?
    – Astralbee
    Mar 31, 2020 at 8:24
  • @Astralbee, I don't see any dictionary showing this phrase. That is why I am asking.
    – Tom
    Mar 31, 2020 at 8:27
  • @Tom there is research you can do outside of the dictionary. Things that can be looked up in the dictionary are off-topic here anyway, as are questions without any context or research. I just Googled the phrase and the top two results answer the question.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 31, 2020 at 9:36
  • @Astralbee, I found 1 forum but I am not sure I understood it fully and if I can use it in my specific situation.For example, why not "leave it what it is" or "leave it where it is", etc. You are native and that is so easy for you and you may take it for granted. Non-native learners have many questions / doubts that native people never thought of. What if I miss-used the term? What if that term can not be used in my particular situation? If you learn a foreign language, you will have the same doubts and you want to ask more and more. People need to read many sources to fully understand a word.
    – Tom
    Mar 31, 2020 at 10:11

1 Answer 1


Think about the meaning of "leave". You can leave something in a physical location, or you can leave something alone - as in not touching it, to preserve its condition.

  • "Leave it where it is" refers to an object's physical location.

  • "Leave it as it is" refers to an object's condition (which could include its location).

Both of these are idiomatic because of the two uses of "leave".

You asked why you couldn't say "leave it what it is" - well, that wouldn't make any sense because the word "leave" doesn't work in that context.

  • Although technically wrong, I do hear a lot of people say "leave it what it is" or "leave it what it was" so it would be understood. Also, I find a lot of people (including me) drop the second 'it' and say "leave it as is" - BrE
    – Gamora
    Apr 1, 2020 at 15:05
  • @Bee It might be understood, just as broken English spoken by a learner might be understood, but it certainly isn't correct and I've never heard it. "Put it back to what it was" is perhaps what they are trying to say.
    – Astralbee
    Apr 1, 2020 at 15:09
  • I think you'll find it's more of a region or dialect thing rather than broken English.
    – Gamora
    Apr 2, 2020 at 9:17
  • @Bee Sorry, you misunderstand me. I was comparing it to the way broken English can be understood, as an English speaker can make exceptions for the way English learners, or children, speak. Just because something can be understood doesn't make it grammatically correct, and this site is about learning English correctly - not about meeting the minimum standard to be understood.
    – Astralbee
    Apr 2, 2020 at 10:05
  • I was merely adding a bit of cultural context to your answer - I did start my comment by saying that it isn't grammatical. Most learners find it helpful
    – Gamora
    Apr 2, 2020 at 10:08

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