I can live with that

I can live with that is an idiom with an uncertain origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom I can live with that, when this phrase came into use, and some examples of its use in sentences.

I can live with that is a phrase that means that one finds something acceptable, that one can agree on a certain solution to a problem. The implication is that the answer or solution is not perfect, but nonetheless, acceptable. The idiom I can live with that is often turned into a question: Can you live with that? The implication is that the questioner knows that the solution is not everything that the listener had hoped it would be, but may be an acceptable compromise. The expression I can live with that seems to have come into popular use in the 1970s-1980s in the United States, but the exact etymology is unknown.


“If we get our day in court, and it’s proven that it wasn’t PG&E’s fault — a jury decides it’s not — I can live with that,” said Wilson, who said his lungs were damaged by the smoky air he was forced to breathe that night. (The Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

You can do your shopping, your banking and just about anything else without ever dealing with a live person, and generally, I can live with that. (The Virginia Gazette)

If the last of those sentiments makes me something of a lawn-care chauvinist, well, I can live with that. (The National Review)

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