Plan B

  • Plan B is an idiom that seems to have originated in the United States, though exactly when the phrase was invented is in dispute. 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, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, 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 plan B, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    Plan B refers to an alternative, a contingency plan in case the first plan does not work out. Plan B is usually employed after the first plan fails to produce the desired results or if the first plan is deemed unacceptable for some reason. The idiom plan B comes from the fact that people working on projects of all types often devise several solutions to a problem, which will be discussed before the plan to execute is chosen. In the military or in business, planners often have a backup plan known as plan B, in case the original plan fails or does not meet expectations. The idiom plan B is often used when in fact, no alternative plan is in place. The phrase simply means that an alternative method must be tried. Note that the B in plan B is capitalized, but not the word plan.



    He lost that vote by 16, which is why he was forced to go to Plan B: Seeking immediately to ram through approval legislation with virtually no debate as if it were a decree, in defiance of all precedent and convention. (The New European)

    Forced to hit the brakes on their Haden Hicks-offense in the first game when the versatile senior suffered a season-ending injury, the Mustangs went to Plan B: A sophomore who last started a game at quarterback in grade school. (The Yakima Herald-Republic)

    At halftime, our talk with the team was, ‘We either have to fix this or we need to go to Plan B. What do you want to do? (The Arizona Daily Star)

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