3

Both roll the dice and take a chance mean test your luck.

Is there any difference between those expressions? As far as I am aware, both phrases suppose an action to be taken; I can't imagine any difference between them.

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  • 5
    Note that "dice" is plural and thus can't be modified by an indefinite article. It would be more common to say "roll the dice". Jun 15, 2023 at 9:54
  • 4
    Marc, [unfortunately] "dice" is nowadays accepted as singular, so we just have to live with it. (Someone took "never say die" too literally.)
    – ralph.m
    Jun 15, 2023 at 12:48
  • 3
    @ralph.m. "Accepted" by whom? There are some of us who still feel that saying "a dice" marks someone as an uncultured barbarian!
    – stangdon
    Jun 15, 2023 at 13:30
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    Regardless of whether dice can be singular, the standard idiom is still "roll the dice"
    – MJD
    Jun 15, 2023 at 13:59
  • 1
    "Roll the die" never means "Take a chance". The correct expression for the purposes of this question is "Roll the dice."
    – gotube
    Jun 15, 2023 at 15:42

1 Answer 1

5

Context best defines the intended meaning of an expression.

Roll the Dice

This expression and its variations in a neutral context, means an unpredictable (or random) outcome. It can also have a negative connotation that emphasizes risk.

  1. Emphasis: Randomness
  • If these candidates are equally qualified, perhaps we should choose based on a roll of the dice.
  1. Emphasis: Risk
  • If we don't check a candidate's references, we're simply rolling the dice.
  • Every time you get on your motorcycle, you're rolling the dice.

Take a Chance

This expression usually emphasizes the benefits of embracing a risk, however, it is sometimes used to emphasize the risk.

  1. Emphasis: Reward
  • For once in your life, take a chance and ask her out!
  • If you don't take a chance, you'll never know.
  1. Emphasis: Risk
  • Every time you cheat on a test, you're taking a chance!

Bonus YouTube:
ABBA: Take A Chance On Me - (Live land '79)

3
  • Thank you so much for such an amazing explanation with samples! Am I right that the key message of the 3rd expression - "go out on a limb" is that, unlike those 2 above, it supposes NO grounds/substantiation for risk, i.e. there may be no good result at all, or things may even become worse. Is that right? (e.g., I went out on a limb climbing the rock with one broken arm).
    – HexenSage
    Jun 16, 2023 at 8:29
  • @HexenSage My pleasure! The example in your comment is not a good use of the expression. Please convert your comment into a new question which, of course, I will be happy to answer.
    – Blindspots
    Jun 16, 2023 at 16:34
  • @HexenSage, in the example, "Every time you cheat on a test, you're taking a chance!", the emphasis is on the risk but there remains an implied reward from the act of cheating. While the relative proportions of risk and reward may vary wildly, offhand, I can't think of a context where "take a chance" doesn't include at least some amount of each.
    – Blindspots
    Jun 17, 2023 at 17:51

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