Set phrase  

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A set phrase or fixed phrase is a phrase whose parts are fixed, even if the phrase could be changed without harming the literal meaning. This is because a set phrase is a culturally accepted phrase. A set phrase does not necessarily have any literal meaning in and of itself. Set phrases may function as idioms (e.g. red herring) or as words with a unique referent (e.g. Red Sea).

Examples of set phrases

Some set phrases are used as either their own statement or as part of a longer statement:

  • I see - Can be used both metaphorically and literally.
  • I don't know
  • Thank you - There is an implied "I" that is almost never used with the set phrase.
  • You're welcome - Note that while 'You are welcome' would have the same literal meaning, it is very rarely used in the same way.

Others are almost always used with more detail added:

  • Don't look now... - Used either literally or figuratively to warn someone about an imminent misfortune.
  • You know... - Usually used rhetorically to make the audience think about the following topic.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Set phrase" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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