enter image description here

At the beginning the gift bag is folded like this (the first picture).

Now you have to unfold it so that you can easily put things in (the second picture).

enter image description here Is it correct to say "you can unfold the gift bag open"? "open" here is an adjective.

I came up with this expression because I see some similar expression with other verbs, for example, "zip it closed/open" , "push the door closed/open" etc.

  • 5
    That doesn't sound very idiomatic. I think most people would just say 'open it', or 'open it out'. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 8:46
  • 1
    Yes, especially 'open it out'. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 8:54
  • 1
    Something pleated like that might also justify the verb "expand". Expand the gift bag. With a folded paper garden-waste bag you could say "unfold and expand the bag".
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 10:50
  • @KateBunting But if it was especially important to emphasise the delicacy of the required operation - there would seem no harm, and nothing ungrammatical, about saying "Unfold the bag open with care".
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 16:10
  • @WS2- I didn't say it was ungrammatical, just that I didn't find it idiomatic. Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


For some reason, this is all about the prefix un. Used often in cooking literature, for example in relation to baguettes and paninis after they have been sliced lengthwise:

  1. Fold it open.

is grammatical, and idiomatic. Similarly:

  1. Zip it open.

is absolutely fine. And so is:

  1. Pop it open.


  1. Pin it up.

But, puzzlingly, these are all ungrammatical:

  1. *Unfold it open.
  2. *Unzip it open.
  3. *Unpop it open.
  4. *Unpin it down.

English doesn't seem to like [un-verb it adjective] constructions!

  • "Fold it open" sounds quite confusing to me - a bit like saying "run down to the top of the hill". But I see nothing wrong with "zip it open".
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 16:17
  • @WS2 I think that might be because you’ve been primed by the OP’s context. It’s the tag line for the Galaxy Fold, and used a lot in cooking literature e.g. “slice the panini lengthwise and fold it open”. Here’s a tweet from Le Lorraine’s bakery … just fold it open, fill it and grill it!. Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 17:34
  • Please: "fold it open" is wrong here. When you open it, the folds are flattened....unfold it open is not grammatical because the un in unfold means open. And zip it open is wrong too. It's unzip.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 18:40
  • @Lambie I always go with the evidence. Not ovine pronouncements. From Collins dictionary: "Zip open the travelling case" Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 21:51
  • Yes, it is there but who would say that? Really? It is an alternative to unzip but fold it open is not an alternative to unfold. But unfold does not work here anyway.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 14:37

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