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The idiom "take a chance" means to do something risky, while "chance" by itself could mean "opportunity".
Could this:

take an unnecessary chance

be wrong, because "unnecessary" obviously modifies "chance", and "unnecessary chance" would be read as a unit (unnecessary opportunity), and "take an unnecessary chance" does not have the idiomatic meaning of "take a chance"?

Would this:

unnecessarily take a chance

, be better, because "unnecessarily" modifies the entire "take a chance" and the idiomatic meaning is preserved?

  • Is this really an idiom? It's quite literal is it not? – Octopus Nov 6 '14 at 20:54
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Take an unnecessary chance could work as good English, but it depends on the context.

I can imagine two people mulling over a course of action with a risk involved. For example, suppose they want to install a new ceiling fan in their house, but neither one of them has much experience in electrical work. They are debating whether this should be a do-it-yourself job, or if they should hire a qualified electrician. One of them might say:

I think we could probably do this ourselves, but I don't want to take an unnecessary chance.

Here, the risk has an enormous downside – their whole house could burn down! Even if that outcome is improbable, they would rather hire someone who knows what they are doing, just to be safe. The "chance" is unnecessary, because there are plenty of qualified electricians in their city.

On the other hand, I don't think this wording works nearly as well when the negative consequences of the risk are rather trivial. In other words, if my son told me:

I was thinking about asking Debbie to the prom, but I don't want to take an unnecessary chance.

that sounds like he is overdramatizing his fears of rejection. It would make more sense for him to say something more along the lines of:

I was thinking about asking Debbie to the prom, but I'm afraid she might say no.

  • On the other hand, if your son (Ex.2) were to use that wording, you could infer that either there's more than just the trivial risk of her saying no, or that he sees this risk as being greater and more important than you do. – jimsug Jun 19 '14 at 9:51
  • @jimsug - Of course he does! Didn't we all think that such rejection would be the end of the world at 14? :^) But you're right – if, for example, Debbie was dating the captain of the wrestling team, perhaps "unnecessary chance" becomes a good way to accurately describe the whole situation. – J.R. Jun 19 '14 at 9:55
  • So, "to take an unnecessary chance" is good, but "to unnecessarily take a chance" is poor English? – meatie Jun 19 '14 at 11:41
  • @meatie - I never said that. And you need to realize there is little point in asking if small snippets and prepositional phrases are "good or poor English" – oftentimes, it can go either way. Take, for instance, "was the best of times." Is that good English? It depends. If I say, "My date with Donna was the best of times last night," that phrase sounds clumsy and out of place. Yet Dickens used those same words and devised one of the most well-known opening lines in all of English literature. – J.R. Jun 19 '14 at 12:59
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  • Take a one-in-a-million chance
  • Take a risky chance
  • Take an unnecessary chance

These all work.

However, take a chance is still a live metaphor - it still means what it means. Compare beat a dead horse. You can modify any part of the phrase.

Take a chance means take a risk, and some risks can be unnecessary. No problem with it at all.

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I think the way we use it depends on the situation.

  1. Dare to do something unusual .
  2. Grab the (one time) opportunity, which won't come again.
  3. Challenge with respect to a particular situation (Sometimes).
  • It was nice if you bring examples for each case. – Ahmad Dec 11 '15 at 8:04
  • @varun yes i agree,but taught of keeping it simple as the things is not that complicated. Thanks for the suggestion by the way – Shinchan_Shiro Dec 11 '15 at 10:08

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