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The ball is in your court

  • The ball is in your court is an idiom that came into use in the latter half of the twentieth century. 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 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 the ball is in your court, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    The ball is in your court means that the responsibility has passed to you, that the decision in a given situation is up to you, that it is up to you to make the next move. When the ball is in your court, nothing else can happen in a given situation until you take action or make a decision. The idiom the ball is in your court is derived from the sport of tennis. When the ball bounces in your court during a game of tennis, you must take action and hit it to keep the game going. The expression the ball is in your court, expressed in a figurative sense, came into use in the 1960s.

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    Examples

    The ball is in your court to take your career to the next level. (Forbes Magazine)

    “I have done my work and now the ball is in your court,” Oparanya told residents of Malava, the deputy governor’s home turf. (The Standard)

    I agree with Republican Congressman Justin Amash who says to the Democrats, “the ball is in your court.” (The Pasadena Journal)

    “Mr. President, I’ll give this ball to you,” Mr. Putin said, before procuring the ball from an aide and tossing it to the president, “and now the ball is in your court.” (The New York Times)


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