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takkk asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 month ago

Native English speakers: "Pop the question" has an idiomatic meaning, but is "pop a question" used literally?

There are some pairs of sentences in which whether "a" or "the" is employed changes the meaning. In these example sentences, when "a" is used, the sentence has a literal meaning, while "the" is employed, it has an idiomatic meaning. The examples that I can come up with off the top of my head are these.

1 (a) John is blowing a whistle.

(b) John is blowing the whistle.

2. (a) Maria is typing a knot.

(b) Maria is tying the knot.

1 (b) means to tell someone in authority about something wrong that someone is doing.

2 (b) means to get married.

Can you come up with any other pairs like these?

How about this?

3 (a) pop a question

(b) pop the question

I know that (3b) means to ask someone to marry you but I wonder if (3a) is used literally.

Is (3a) used literally meaning to come up with a question you'd like to ask?

2 Answers

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  • 1 month ago
    Favorite Answer

    The first two examples you give actually don't work the way you're thinking they do. Either expression can be used idiomatically or in the normal sense since whistles are actually blown into and knots are actually tied. It's the context which gives the idiomatic meaning.

    Examples: "Who tied this knot?". "Maria tied the knot."

    "I heard that you attended a wedding." "Yes, my friend Maria tied the knot."

    "Who is blowing the whistle that I hear?" "John is blowing the whistle."

    "Someone is reporting illegal activity in the company to the regulatory authorities." "Yes, John is blowing the whistle."

    "Pop a question" is never used in reference to simply asking a question; and "pop the question" is used only in reference to asking someone to marry you, so the latter is truly an idiomatic expression.

    No, sorry, I can't come up with any other examples.

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  • reme_1
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    "pop the question" means that a guy finally proposes to his girlfriend.

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