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Questions tagged [phrases]

A phrase is a group of words that make a unit of syntax with a single grammatical function.

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43
votes
6answers
37k views

'Ask away' - what does 'away' mean?

“Sir,” said Harry, reminding himself irresistibly of Voldemort, “I wanted to ask you something.” “Ask away, then, my dear boy, ask away. . . .” In this sentence, I don't know what does 'away' ...
25
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5answers
5k views

Is it proper to use “broke” in “Broke his feelings”?

My colleague broke his feelings. (English Syntax and Argumentation, Bas Aarts) Aarts says this sentence is abnormal, because of the selectional restrictions: ‘feelings’ is abstract and not proper ...
20
votes
5answers
4k views

What is the meaning of “taking in each other's washing”

Of course your existence matters to other people—your parents and others who care about you—but taken as a whole, their lives have no point either, so it ultimately doesn't matter that you matter ...
19
votes
5answers
84k views

What does “How come” mean?

Is How come a phrase? What does it mean? Is it formal or informal? British or American? Can I use it in anywhere?
17
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3answers
72k views

“I am hurting” in the meaning of “I am hurt”? Why?

Once in a while I hear someone use the phrase I am hurting. It appears to mean I am hurt, not I am hurting you. For example, consider the text on this drawing: When and why is it correct to say I'm ...
15
votes
4answers
8k views

The meaning of “I’m very cheap”?

Woman: I didn't know you were coming back. Man: I wasn't, but I had made an appointment at the hair salon before I left, and they don't do refunds for cancellations. I'm very cheap. What does "I’...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

What does the phrase “building hopping chop” mean here?

Here is a sentence from an endless runner game: Building hopping chops is a good strategy to avoid unexpected dangers. The player is advised to leap to the side when she sees any danger or goes ...
13
votes
6answers
33k views

Why is “many a man” singular while “many men” plural?

Recently I came to know that there is a construction "Many a man" which is equivalent to "many men". But I also noticed that the former construction is considered as singular, e.g. Many a man has ...
12
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8answers
5k views

Is there a negative counterpart of the phrase “thanks to”?

The thing to which the phrase "thanks to" is attributed usually produces positive consequence. I wonder if there is a negative counterpart. EDIT: Many thanks. I have now learned that thanks to can ...
11
votes
5answers
4k views

“[A] voice that bored a thousand ships into sinking themselves”

Still a line from "The Marvelous Ms. Maisel" The character said: And Stan... who has a voice that bored a thousand ships into sinking themselves. I was totally lost about this phrase.
11
votes
2answers
318 views

Is there a saying like “something still bites me”?

It's a recurring issue for me that I can't completely remember a saying. In this case I think I've heard someone using something like: I've interrogated him and he seems to have an alibi. Something ...
10
votes
8answers
2k views

“You are your self first supporter”, a more proper way to say it

I want to say that the person himself/herself should be the first supporter of himself/herself. I came up with two different ways of saying that, and I want to know if they are all correct, and which ...
10
votes
3answers
4k views

Can traffic lights “turn red” for ten minutes?

I've been learning Indonesian with Indonesian pod 101 and I'm afraid in learning bad English meanwhile. Is this sentence correct? "Lisa, so sorry. The traffic jam was awful, and all the traffic ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Using “A cold yesterday” as noun phrase

In this Google Books search for "a cold yesterday", I found "Johnny had a cold yesterday." Is this usage correct? Can we use "quality-adjective + adverbial noun" to make "noun group"?
10
votes
4answers
2k views

How to understand “bomb the expletive out of something”? Is that an idiomatic expression?

I came across this sentence with a strange use of the word "expletive", Trump has variously expressed enthusiasm for outsourcing the fight against the Islamic State to Vladimir Putin and for ...
10
votes
1answer
3k views

Meaning of “Cling to Life”

The Windows phones still clinging to life are not Microsoft's. Does "clinging to life" mean "existing" here?
10
votes
1answer
6k views

Is it correct to say 'It takes 2 hours, 4 hours top'?

I'd have expected it should rather be 2 hours, 4 hours max. So can top in this context be used like a synonym for max? Is this a common phrase?
9
votes
5answers
2k views

Is “Not even an inch” considered a correct phrase?

I found the idiom "not move/budge/change an inch" used when talking about something that won't change as someone's stubborn opinion. Example from Cambridge Dictionary: She's definite that she ...
9
votes
3answers
43k views

Why “Would you mind if I asked you something?” is correct?

Instead of "Would you mind if I ask you something?" Why past tense, I don't get it?
9
votes
4answers
22k views

“My sister and I” versus “I and my sister”

I've been told to put "I" at the last part of the subject, as in "My sister and I walk to school." Is saying "I and my sister walk to school." wrong?
9
votes
4answers
2k views

“To split hairs” vs “To be pedantic”

How shall I semantically distinguish to be pedantic and splitting hairs while they both indicate the same message about a person who is paying too much attention to some unnecessary details?
9
votes
1answer
497 views

What does the sign mean: this sidewalk to be closed on or about

I saw a road sign that said: this sidewalk to be closed on or about. I am not sure what this means.
8
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10answers
3k views

How do I say car is tilting/leaning in one direction in parking spot?

Often parking spots have straight lines between which you have to park your car, parallel to the line. However, let's say, I see a car a parked diagonally between the two lines. How would I ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

“Watch the step” without stairs

When travelling on trains in the USA, I have noticed a sign saying "watch the step" close to the exit. I thought it was referring to stairs, but nowhere close to the exit I have seen stairs. I also ...
8
votes
3answers
18k views

What does “As in” mean here?

“Didn’t you hear me? A bride, Cinder. As in, a princess.” “As in, not going to happen. He’s only, what? Nineteen?” Source I looked it up, and it seems to mean "for example" or "such as"; but ...
8
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5answers
5k views

What do you call it when someone searches through your stuff?

This is one of the things that I don't really know the proper name for, because I've never heard anyone say it, but I know how to explain it. Let's say a toddler is searching through your backpack, ...
8
votes
4answers
10k views

Is “in one go” British English or just English?

I'm playing a game on a forum that involves guessing who posted. An American English speaker said that because the poster wrote "in one go" (meaning "in one sitting"), they were probably British or ...
8
votes
4answers
4k views

I don't want to get lung cancer like you do

I was talking with someone who's trying to quit smoking. Then the topic moved to how I want to live here because of poor air quality in my hometown and I said this: I don't want to get lung cancer ...
8
votes
5answers
3k views

The use of “let alone”

In his god is not Great Christopher Hitchens writes: June 5, Los Angeles: A three-hour debate with the Reverend Mark Roberts, senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, in Orange County, on Hugh ...
8
votes
1answer
946 views

What does the phrase “pinch apart” mean here?

Here is a sentence from a task management app: The app allows you to add tasks in several ways and in one of them you can pinch apart two items in order to squeeze a task in between them. I am ...
8
votes
3answers
69k views

Analyzing “So am I”

"I'm hungry." "So am I." Please reveal the reason behind saying "So am I". It seems it has an interrogative structure. Is it wrong to say "So I am" ?
8
votes
2answers
8k views

“Holla at your girl” meaning

What does "holla at your girl" mean exactly? and what is the difference between that and "holla at your boy"? Does it depend on the gender of the speaker? Also, how is "holla" pronounced? It was ...
8
votes
2answers
424 views

The syntax of metaphors in English

I tried to translate a line of a Persian poem into English, it is almost like: If you come to visit me, come slowly and softly Lest the delicate porcelain of my loneliness cracks Here, the ...
8
votes
2answers
87k views

What does “same same but different” mean?

A friend of mine asked what "same same but different" meant. The context was in an essay called Same-same, but different on the Japan Times website: One Indochinese term we all learned was the ...
8
votes
5answers
3k views

What does “cue in to” mean?

I can't find a definition of "cue in to" that explains the following sentences (from Google Books and dictionaries). The phrase, if it is an idiomatic phrase, seems to mean "pay attention to" or "...
7
votes
5answers
856 views

Form a circle line? (Verb)

Let's say a primary school teacher is going to tell a story. But before she starts, she is asking her students to: form a circle line surrounding her (like this one in the picture) What is a ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

What does the phrase “pull off sick wheelies and flips” mean here?

Here is a made-up sentence from a racing game: In order to earn speed boosts, you should catch air and pull off sick wheelies and flips. I am not sure about the meaning of the phrase "pull off ...
7
votes
2answers
323 views

Does the phrase “more obvious” mean “just barely noticeable among many” in certain contexts?

Let me add some context here: In Frank Herbert’s Dune, there is this sentence: “I know the Dark Things and the ways of the Great Mother,” Jessica said. She read the more obvious signs in Mapes’ ...
7
votes
3answers
11k views

“By oneself” versus “on one's own”

Is there any difference between these three pairs? If there is, is it the same difference? I did it by myself. I did it on my own.   He lives by himself. He lives on his own. &...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Is it common to say “I have a complaint about my order.”?

I have a complaint about my order. Is this sentence used in any situation when you have some trouble with the product you bought? To me, it sounds very straight, but I'd like to know if it is OK to ...
7
votes
2answers
198 views

How would a native speaker understand buying 2 socks?

How would a native speaker understand this sentence: I have bought 2 socks. A pair of socks is quite obvious, 2 pairs of socks also, but what with 2 socks? 2 socks are a pair, but since you can't ...
7
votes
1answer
538 views

What is the usage of “was become of…”

In the following sentences "What was become of Peter?" Source: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, quoting Acts 12:18 KJV. What became of my second Brother I never knew any more than Father or Mother ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

He travels (the) fastest who travels alone

Some people write, "He travels fastest who travels alone." Other people write, "He travels the fastest who travels alone." Which one do you think is correct? The definite article 'the' is ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

how to write an offer like this one?

In "kids" offer, you can get the "kids meal" and another meal. For this other meal, you can choose between "Chicken meal" or "Beef meal". I feel like using the phrases (Another meal) and (for this ...
6
votes
4answers
3k views

Is it correct to say “Mother is my life”?

I need this phrase for some design as today is Mother's day. Basically, I want to say: My mother is my life. This is the graphic I designed which inspired me Is “My mother is my life” ...
6
votes
1answer
2k views

How would you ask a person to remove one hand from a shirt?

My wife is studying nursing in Canada and she was puzzled the other day as to how to ask a patient to only remove a single hand from one of the sleeves. The entire sweater could not be removed because ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

“Are you stupid, or do you eat rocks?”

In Italian, we use the expression Sei scemo o mangi sassi? which can be literally translated as "Are you stupid, or do you eat rocks?" It is a way of saying "You are stupid." What is the more ...
6
votes
2answers
433 views

Does “be late for the green light” look natural?

Does "be late for the green light" look natural? (I'm talking about a traffic light.) I ask because though it looks good to me, Google doesn't find many search results (just 5, to be accurate) if I ...
6
votes
3answers
569 views

What is “cultural capital” and what role does it play in learning the language?

My English teacher once jovially remarked that if I were to ever fully understand literature texts by native English writers, I would have to have cultural capital. He went on to add that I wouldn't ...
6
votes
5answers
152k views

“So am I” or “So do I”?

What would be the correct way to reply to a statement such as: "I belong to this group" Would it be "So do I" or "So am I"?