I recently heard this expression from a podcast episode, where a guest said "that's no way to treat a woman".

from the context of that conversation, I infer that this likely means "that's not an appropriate way to treat a woman". However, a cursory Google search has led nowhere since this specific usage is not included in dictionaries. Here's the explanation of no way in Cambridge Dictionary:

used to tell someone that something is impossible:

I did notice the collocation there's no way to do, but I can tell it's different from that's no way to do.

I also found some other sources that include this expression:

  1. We simply aggravate each other, and that's no way to start a relationship.
  2. But that's no way to win a political campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
  3. That's no way to move forward in a career, or anywhere else.

And they're from established newspapers. To conclude, what's the meaning that this expression conveys, and is this a standard usage?

  • It's very standard, with the implication that someone is doing something badly or in a wrong manner. That's no way to treat a lady, run a business/railroad/country, get me to buy your car, say goodbye (etc etc etc - this could turn into one of those insane lists in Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew). In fact, 'that's no way to run a railroad' has a specific meaning of 'that (whatever thing) is being done very badly' Commented Apr 5 at 13:28
  • I have seen 'that's no way to run a railway' in UK and Canadian contexts. Commented Apr 5 at 14:04
  • This was a very well-asked question—you included your research and explained how it didn't fully answer your needs! Commented Apr 5 at 16:09
  • In "Punch and Judy" tradition, the puppet Punch has a famous catchphrase, "That's the way to do it!" Perhaps the expanded thought behind "That's no way to __" is that "there may be more than one valid way to do such a thing, but this is not one of them." Commented Apr 5 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


Your interpretation is correct. "That's no way to do something" means that the action is either disapproved of or that it is unlikely to work (or both).

That's no way to treat a lady.
That's no way to hang a picture

"There's no way to do something" has a completely different meaning
It means that it is impossible to do something, no method exists or none is successful.

There's no way to travel faster than light.
There's no way to repair that broken glass.

It boils down to the different meanings of the two contractions that's (that is) and there's (there is)

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