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Short English phrases
April 7, 2007 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Is there a name for common phrases such as "at last" or "just in case" or "ever after"?

Words that go together to create such common, little, almost unnoticeable phrases. I'm just wondering what these are called if they have a name. Do you know any more of these?
posted by lain to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
idoms.
posted by delmoi at 3:24 PM on April 7, 2007


Er, sorry "Idioms"
posted by delmoi at 3:24 PM on April 7, 2007


The three you mention are all sentence adverbs. Dunno if that's what you had in mind.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:33 PM on April 7, 2007


I'm not totally sure how broad the set of phrases you're considering is—can you provide any more examples, or elaborate on their specific function?

But in general, delmoi is right: idiom, or "fixed phrase", is the general case.
posted by cortex at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2007


I don't think these are idioms, since they are fairly literal, even if they leave words out. "I'm bringing an umbrella just in case [I need it]", as opposed to "John kicked the bucket".

I think these are called collocations.
posted by anaelith at 3:44 PM on April 7, 2007


What is the term for compound phrases whose meanings are different than the component words would imply? For instance, to "work over" something doesn't mean to work above it. ("Work him over" doesn't mean the same thing as "work over him", does it?)

In English there are many such which are a combination of a verb and a preposition. Is there a term for this?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:06 PM on April 7, 2007


SCDB: I think the terms you're after are prepositional verbs and phrasal verbs.
posted by veggieboy at 4:11 PM on April 7, 2007


What is the term for compound phrases whose meanings are different than the component words would imply?

Those could also be construed as idioms, or colloquialisms.
posted by frogan at 4:13 PM on April 7, 2007


+1 anaelith. Collocations is what I thought of.
posted by adamrice at 7:15 PM on April 7, 2007


anaelith says: I don't think these are idioms, since they are fairly literal, even if they leave words out.

Often a phrase is considered idiomatic if its meaning is not compositional just from the meanings of its parts.

Having understood left out parts is idiomatic.

(Note: having left out parts that can be reconstructed via grammar is not idiomatic. It is grammar not idiom that recovers the subject of "Drop dead!".)
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:06 PM on April 7, 2007


I reckon these are phatic statements - Wikipedia says "a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task". Not quite sure what type of category you're looking for.
posted by paduasoy at 1:40 AM on April 8, 2007


I reckon these are phatic statements - Wikipedia says "a phatic expression is one whose only function is to perform a social task".

No, phatic expressions are things like "Hi!" or "you're welcome"—like the man said, "whose only function is to perform a social task." This is not true of the quoted expressions, for which collocations or fixed expressions are adequate terms.
posted by languagehat at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2007


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