Toe the line

The idiom is toe the line, not tow the line. The phrase derives from track-and-field events in which athletes are required to place a foot on a starting line and wait for the signal to go. Race officials used to shout “Toe the line!” where now they shout “On your marks!” Since entering the language, the idiom has developed to mean do what is expected or act according to someone else’s rules or expectations.

Examples

These days, he suggested, you’ve either got to toe the line or get out. [Newsweek]

It is this sort of hubris, the thinking that we can ignore world superpowers who don’t toe the line, that will be dangerous to our nation in years to come.  [The Bradenton Times]

Michaud thinks the U.S. should threaten to impose tarriffs on Chinese imports if Beijing doesn’t toe the line. [MPBN News]

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