In my business travels I hear many times "reach for the stars" about startup company. I am glad because my culture has a similar ritual for good fortune in trade though many young people in my country believe it do not works or maybe works in the past but no longer.

I wonder when else I can say "reach" instead of "pray"? I think I have heard "reach for success" also. But is this only a prayer for business? Can I say to my associate "I will reach for you tonight"? "Let us reach together on Thursday?"

I am grateful for any help on this usage! I have understood it is important in business that "my communication projects an image that is effortlessly fresh - exciting, relevant and original". Thank you.

1 Answer 1


You actually can't use it that way at all in English.

"Reach for the stars" is a motivational idea: it's about stretching out and trying to achieve something that may seem impossible but is also enormously valuable if you do succeed. It has nothing to do with any religious or superstitious ideas, and in fact it's a very materialistic sort of idealism: it's focused on motivating individuals to do their best with their own bodies and brains and skills. The stars are not helping; rather, they symbolize the challenge.

Prayer has a common implication of someone you're praying to and a set of common things to pray for. (In fact, the original meaning is specifically a formal request: you can "pray the king to grant land", for example, if you wanted to get some property from the king.) But you can't really "reach" without reaching for something specific or toward something specific. So while the first two meanings you listed ("reaching for the stars" and "reaching for success") don't really mean what you thought, the other possibilities don't work at all, and almost every English speaker would be quite confused by them.

English does have a superstition related to stars that's a little like what you describe, though: the idea that you can wish for something when you see the first star of night appear, or when you see a shooting star (meteor), and perhaps have that wish granted. It doesn't have anything to do with business specifically; it's usually a more sentimental thing, especially these days. ("I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight. Please bring back my daddy.")

  • In the legal field, a complaint is often ended with what the petitioner is asking for, i.e., "Petitioner John Doe prays for relief from Respondent in the sum of.." etc. "Pray" is an antiquated but still-used way of informing the court you're asking for something.
    – Cathrin
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 12:28

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