Take it or leave it

Take it or leave it is an idiom with roots in the 1300s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom take it or leave it, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Take it or leave it is an idiom that is an admonition to either take the item or proposition offered, or accept no item or proposition. The expression take it or leave it means that the person will not offer any alternatives and will not negotiate. The famous phrase take it or leave it is found as far back as the 1300s and is used several times in the plays of William Shakespeare. Take it or leave it is a Hobson’s choice, in which one may take what is offered or nothing at all.


“The way the State implemented the Emergency Order’s directives presented local school districts with a ‘Hobson’s Choice’ to essentially ‘take it or leave it,’” the lawyers wrote. (The Tampa Bay Times)

For all these years Marshmallow Fluff has been a favorite snack food for many, while others could, frankly, take it or leave it. (The Somerville Times)

He proceeded to describe how health plans have become more democratized, and individual consumers have options rather than the take-it-or-leave-it experience of the past. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

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