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I ran into the expression 'That's final' in a piece of American English text.

a) Is it used in Britain too?

b) Has it an arrogant or authoritarian connotation?

  • Any "arrogant or authoritarian connotations" attach to the context - the words themselves are effectively neutral. Note that in most contexts, "That's that" (stress on second word) is equivalent, and far more common. – FumbleFingers Jul 26 '14 at 13:24
  • @FumbleFingers I wouldn't say they are equivalent. "That's final" is used in negotiations when one person is unwilling to negotiate more. "that's that" might be used to conclude any sort of sequence which may not even be a negotiation, such as reassembling an engine, or sweeping the floor. "Sweep the dust into the dustpan, throw it out, and that's that." – Phil Frost Jul 28 '14 at 11:04
  • @Phil Frost: I didn't express myself very well. I mean most instances of "That's final" could be replaced by "That's that" with no significant change in meaning. Not the other way around, since the latter is more general, and can have many other senses, including yours. – FumbleFingers Jul 28 '14 at 11:55
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I wouldn't say it has an "arrogant" connotation, but I do think it generally connotes authority. It means, "No more discussion about this; the debate is over." Usually, peers can't unilaterally close a debate, so I'd expect to hear this uttered by a boss to a subordinate, or a parent to a child. It might also be used in the context of price negotiations (as in, "That's my final offer.")

As a side note, it might be worth including a few more details about where you've seen this. I'm making some assumptions about the context; these could be inaccurate.

As for whether or not it's common in the UK, I'll let someone from the UK answer that.

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a) It's an Americanism but one of the more common ones. It would seem normal if used in conversation and wouldn't stick out like say, calling a tap a 'Faucet' or the boot of a car a 'Trunk' would.

b) Yes, most of the time. It's used to end a conversation before both parties feel the discussion has ended - this is normally rude but may be a lot less rude than what really you want to say.

It could be used in a lighter context and not be seen as rude - but usually between people who know each other well.

  • It's not an "Americanism" - it's part of standard English everywhere. – FumbleFingers Jul 26 '14 at 12:50
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    I agree with FumbleFingers - this isn't an Americanism. Also it isn't always rude and is in fact used to insist when someone hesitates to accept a kindness, and is quite reassuring: I'm paying for dinner and that's final! You're not going to any hotel; You're staying with us and that's final! – CocoPop Jul 26 '14 at 12:53
  • @CocoPop: Quite. But I'd say it's meaningless to suggest the words themselves might be "rude". Any rudeness or arrogance attaches to the context. The speaker has made a decision, and will entertain no further discussion - if that's his right/duty (which it usually would be), the concept of "arrogance/rudeness" is simply irrelevant. – FumbleFingers Jul 26 '14 at 13:19
  • @FumbleFingers: My point exactly! – CocoPop Jul 26 '14 at 13:21
  • Strangely enough I said 'arrogant or authoritarian' and no one seems ready to take a firm stance but Niall whose explanations back up the latter. – Brice C. Jul 28 '14 at 16:41
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"That's final" indicates an unconditional end to any negotiations, as in "that's my final offer".

It has acquired a negative connotation from one common context: the authority of men over women. As modern society recognizes this as a sexist convention, any man who says "that's final" deserves a slap -- or a divorce.

As with most sexist behaviors from the recent past, AMC's "Mad Men" gives us a great example (click for video!):


enter image description here

Pete: Spence Chapin [a child adoption agency]. How did that happen?

Trudy: I put us on the list. And, I don't know -- we went right to the top!

Pete: Well, I'm not going. And neither are you.

Trudy: Peter, you're shouting.

Pete: [interrupting] Don't do that. Listen to me, very carefully. We are not. Adopting. A child. That's final.

Trudy: Will you calm down and we can talk about...

Pete: [interrupting] Hell's bells Trudy! That is final!


It's possible to use "that's final" in different contexts without the sexist connotation, such as business negotiation. However, you likely won't encounter this usage as frequently, especially in popular culture.

I can't give good first-hand experience on usage in British English, but the Google Ngram viewer suggests that British authors use the expression about half as much as American authors. Also interesting: "that's final" took a big dive in American writing in the 1960's, the same time that the civil rights and women's rights movements were becoming popular.

  • Your cited Mad Men usage is the non-contracted form, for which the supposed US/UK divide is negligible. – FumbleFingers Jul 26 '14 at 12:56
  • @FumbleFingers I heard Pete's first usage of it with "that's". Then he says it again as "that is" to emphasize what an ass he is to his wife. – Phil Frost Jul 26 '14 at 15:08
  • If a man says it to a woman, he deserves a slap in the face. And if a woman says it to a man, then what? – J.R. Jul 26 '14 at 18:13
  • I meant 'That is final' —not 'That is my final offer'. Quite different things, indeed. – Brice C. Jul 28 '14 at 16:43

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