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Learn the ropes and know the ropes

Learn the ropes and know the ropes are related idioms that have been around at least since the early 1800s, if not longer. We will look at the meanings of the phrases learn the ropes and know the ropes, where they most probably come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To learn the ropes means to find out how to do something, to acquire an expertise. The idiom most probably comes from the world of sailing ships. Sailing ships are rigged with a myriad of ropes, when learning to sail a man would be taught which ropes to pull at appropriate times as well as how to tie specific knots in order to accomplish different tasks. By the early to mid-1800s, the term learn the ropes migrated into standard English to be used as an idiom. Related idioms are learns the ropes, learned the ropes, learning the ropes.


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To know the ropes means to understand how to do something, to have acquired an expertise. This idiom goes hand-in-hand with the idiom learn the ropes, as well as the idiom teach one the ropes. Related phrases are knows the ropes, knew the ropes and knowing the ropes.

Examples

With patience and aplomb, they can help even the most timid newbie learn the ropes in a one-hour workout that’s said to burn up to 700 calories. (Atlanta Magazine)

“In the early days, our boys were young, and he spent so much time at the commission just learning the ropes.” (The Williston Herald)

East Bridgewater needed more than just Super Bowl experience to defeat the Spartans, but it helped to know the ropes when the Vikings showed up bright and early. (The Enterprise News)

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