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Questions tagged [phrase-meaning]

Use this tag for questions about the meaning and usage of a particular phrase, for which a dictionary cannot answer.

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What does “looked death in the face” mean?

“Of course, you've looked death in the face before, haven't you?” said Rita Skeeter, watching him closely. “How would you say that's affected you?” I guess it could be a figure of speech as if ...
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“back and forward” or “back and forth”

The quill whizzed across the parchment between them, back and forward as though it were skating. I've never seen "back and forward" before. I doubt if it means the same as "back and forth". Is there ...
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How to understand “for all the notice anyone took” in this context?

…Everyone wanted to know how he had done it, how he had tricked Dumbledore's Age Line and managed to get his name into the goblet.… “I didn't,” he said, over and over again, “I don't know how it ...
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What happened to you? [on hold]

My husband is from Peru and is an intermediate English speaker. When he gets frustrated with me (an American) he say's, "What happened to you?" As a fluent English speaker and American citizen, I ...
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1answer
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usage in this example

A survey was written by the company. (sentence) (past tense) A survey written by a company (phrase). (no tense) A survey written by a company suggested there were faults in the business. Does ...
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1answer
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The meaning of “as much as” in this sentence

As much as the weaponry it produced as one of the “arsenals of the United Nations,” the TVA itself was potent propaganda, an authoritative, living symbol of how a liberal world could be constructed ...
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What does “Bless you” mean in this context?

“What's that?” said Ron, pointing at a large dish of some sort of shellfish stew that stood beside a large steak-and-kidney pudding. “Bouillabaisse,” said Hermione. “Bless you,” said Ron. ...
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1answer
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What's a galaxy question?

I'm watching a MSNBC commentary about Syria war and @6:02 where a guest says: That's a galaxy question What's the meaning of galaxy question? Does it mean the question is off-topic? Or it mean it'...
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1answer
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He's laying it down?

What's the meaning of: He is laying it down! I'm watching a MSNBC commentary about Syria war and @3:38, which the host is astonished by a truth being told by a guest and said this sentence, so ...
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1answer
28 views

“leaned in toward” VS “leaned toward”

George, however, leaned in toward Hermione. I've never seen the phrase "lean in toward" before. Is it a common collocation? What will be the difference between "leaned in toward Hermione" and "...
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1answer
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What does it mean by “clean up its act by pleading poverty”?

"In the past India has explained its failure to clean up its act by pleading poverty, noting that richer countries were once just as dirty and that its output of filth per person still lags far behind ...
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1answer
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“He broke out in a grin”

Her face broke out in a grin as she nodded, her ponytail swinging. (source) Lee broke out in a grin and went on. (source) Wondering what the jocularity was about, Matsuzaka finally noticed ...
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1answer
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“In what month” Vs. “In which month”

What's idiomatic of these two choices ("In what month" Vs. "In which month")? I were told in the past that I have to choose "what" in a place where I don't know anything about the choices (for ...
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1answer
18 views

What does “bent in upon its body” mean?

At once, the spider's leg bent in upon its body; it rolled over and began to twitch horribly, rocking from side to side. I don't understand the phrase "bent in upon". I can't picture what it would ...
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1answer
26 views

Something be to try to do something

China Move to Cut Duties on U.S. Imports Lifts Auto Stocks “Last week, events seemed to conspire to throw the truce into disarray, but the underlying incentives of both sides at the moment are to try ...
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1answer
21 views

What does 'divide against' mean?

AFAIU, there's a phrase by Abraham Lincoln (and maybe Bible before that, I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter) 'a house divided against itself cannot stand'. I guess I somewhat understand the meaning ...
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1answer
93 views

What does “Place swimming in soup” mean?

“Oh the usual,” said Nearly Headless Nick(about Peeves), shrugging. “Wreaked havoc and mayhem. Pots and pans everywhere. Place swimming in soup. Terrified the house-elves out of their wits -” I'm ...
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2answers
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Meaning of the phrase `believe in'

How to understand the phrase "believe in" in the sentence "We believe in investing in scientific research."? I find the example sentence under the specification of the word `scientific' from Longman ...
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What does “a motion from the floor” mean? [closed]

I don't understand the expression "a motion from the floor" in the first paragraph of the following link. https://www.mathunion.org/fileadmin/IMU/Organization/imu-net/pdfs/2018/IMU-Net-92.pdf It is ...
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1answer
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What's the meaning of “somebody gave up something to somebody”?

It's a line from "The Marvelous Ms. Maisel" a comedy-drama in the 1950s. The phrase I confused is a line from a comedy stand-up, here are the full story: I do not charge for sex. I mean, that's ...
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1answer
35 views

What does “run to the left” mean exactly in the context of politics?

I was reading a Wikipedia page when I ran into this passage: Wu and Teachout ran against Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent governor, and Kathy Hochul, an upstate Democrat and former Representative in the ...
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2answers
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“harden ignorance in contempt” and “distinguish desert”

In his Preface to the Dictionary, Samuel Johnson wrote the following. I'd like to know what "harden ignorance in contempt" and "distinguish desert" mean. ... a few wild blunders, and risible ...
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1answer
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What does “there's must be” mean?

I've seen it written this way a couple of times, e.g. in oxford entry for dame: 'There's must be a wealthy society dame (preferably played by Margaret Dumont) who is entirely smitten with Groucho, ...
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1answer
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What does “penalty to/for …” mean?

Let's say Team A and Team B have a soccer match. Now the referee says: it's a penalty to Team A. Does it mean Team B Kicks the Penalty kick or Team A kicks it? And I also saw the phrase "penalty for ...
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1answer
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Old language meanings

I was reading the Hound of the Baskervilles, and tripped upon this phrase. 'Capital article this on Free Trade.' I suppose it's the title of the Times article from which Sherlock speculates that ...
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Person referred to as an institution [closed]

What is the meaning of “an institution” when applied to an individual.
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3answers
684 views

What does “tell with” mean in this context?

"Did sir just call me Dobby?" squeaked the elf curiously from between its fingers. Its voice was higher even than Dobby's had been, a teeny, quivering squeak of a voice, and Harry suspected -- though ...
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1answer
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What does “Pull up a bit of grass” mean in this context?

... ... "Pull up a bit of grass, Barry," said Ludo brightly, patting the ground beside him. "No thank you, Ludo," said (Barry)Crouch, and there was a bite of impatience in his voice. "I've ...
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1answer
28 views

What's “an exchange trip”?

Bill had a penfriend at a school in Brazil ... this was years and years ago ... and he wanted to go on an exchange trip but Mum and Dad couldn't afford it. His penfriend got all offended when he said ...
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2answers
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What does “to build upon a previous example” mean?

Ex. 1: To build upon a previous example, the novel question “are you feeling okay?” might evoke the same “yes” response due to the similarity of the questions. [Source] Ex. 2: To build ...
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0answers
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How do I say a time in the past

I'd like to know if I can say "t is a time of past" or "t is a past time" for "t is a time in the past". There is no other context, and "t" is time. Also may I say "t is a time yesterday"? I want to ...
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1answer
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“That's if they're coming at all” meaning?

"Maybe they think they'll get invited to dinner if they're late." (said Aunt Petunia) "Well, they most certainly won't be," said Uncle Vernon, and Harry heard him stand up and start pacing the ...
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What does “were identical to the last freckle” mean in this context?

Aunt Petunia shrieked and fell backward over the coffee table; Uncle Vernon caught her before she hit the floor, and gaped, speechless, at the Weasleys, all of whom had bright red hair, including Fred ...
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1answer
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What's “prime tickets”? [closed]

...and my husband, Arthur, has just managed to get prime tickets through his connections at the Department of Magical Games and Sports. As title, what's "prime tickets"? I haven't managed to find a ...
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3answers
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What does “give their right hands to” mean exactly?

I will allow you to perform an essential task for me, one that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform.... The closest phrase I can find is "give a hand" meaning "help someone". ...
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3answers
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What does “while all along” mean? (comparing to “while”)

Catch Me If You Can is about someone who convinces everyone that he can really fly a plane while all along he's just a teenager. My question is: What is the difference between "while he's just a ...
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1answer
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What does the phrase “there is every chance that” mean?

And the answer is, "You can always conjure them up! IF they are significant triggers of relaxation in a person then there is a very good chance indeed that you can activate the appropriate system by ...
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1answer
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What does “delete” mean in this context (learning languages)?

I encountered the following phrase at the beginning of Chapter 5 in Kato Lomb's book "Polyglot - How I learn languages": Chapter 5: How to Study Languages "HOW CAN I learn English, Russian, ...
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1answer
123 views

What is a spanking machine? [closed]

This is a conversation from the movie The Game (1997) (starting from about 11:00) starring Michael Douglas. Urban Dictionary suggests a spanking machine is when it is a child's birthday, that child ...
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1answer
20 views

How to understand “in the end bed”?

It was empty except for Ron, who was still lying motionless in the end bed. The phrase "in the end bed" looks strange to me. I've never seen 'end' is used like that. Usually, I see "at the end of" ...
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2answers
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What does “had no business” mean?

The U.S. had no business dropping points, much less losing. And yet it did. What's the meaning of had no business here? Is it like did not need at all? Or were not interested in? Or by all means ...
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1answer
52 views

Is “Cannot be taken to be true” common in American English?

In a final paragraph of my essay in Toefl exam, I want to say an statement which means "the conclusion in first paragraph (which is a reasoning of an author) is false". Can I say instead that "the ...
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1answer
32 views

What does “Ron's face was set” mean?

Black conjured heavy manacles from thin air; soon Pettigrew was upright again, left arm chained to Lupin's right, right arm to Ron's left. Ron's face was set. He seemed to have taken Scabbers's true ...
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2answers
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“the little money he had” versus “what little money he had”

Is there a nuanced difference between the following noun phrases? Does what do something other than the does? ... the little money he had ... what little money he had
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1answer
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How to understand “not even” in this sentence?

"I've told the headmaster again and again that you're helping your old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here's the proof. Not even I dreamed you would have the nerve to use this old place as ...
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1answer
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What does “get out nails done ” mean? [closed]

I have a letter from a native English speaker. A sentence of that is as follows: "We were only going to get out nails done today and go to a couple of stores and home." I have searched google for "...
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1answer
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What does “out of nerves” mean in this context?

... Hermione had been right; Professor Flitwick did indeed test them on Cheering Charms. Harry slightly overdid his out of nerves and Ron, who was partnering him, ended up in fits of hysterical ...
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Why say “buy shares in a company” but not “buy shares from / of a company”?

In the dictionary: share /ʃeəʃer/ noun 1[countable] one of the parts into which ownership of a company is divided Friendly companies and banks hold (=own) 56% of all shares in Germany’s ...
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2answers
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What does “droppin' me notes” mean in this context?

He(Hagrid) seemed numb with shock at the verdict. "S'all my fault. Got all tongue-tied. They was all sittin' there in black robes an' I kep' droppin' me notes and forgettin' all them dates yeh ...
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1answer
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What does “background” mean in a job interview?

What does "your own background" mean when an employer asks: Please send us a PowerPoint presentation about your own background, your education and a detailed technical discussion of your thesis.