grammatical expression: to leave a lot to be desired


In English, we have something we call euphemisms. This means we use a softer way of saying something instead of a very harsh and direct way. For example, instead of saying someone is dead, we often say that they have “passed away”. This sounds much softer and easier to hear.

Today’s expression is “to leave a lot to be desired”, and it’s an example of a euphemism. We use it when we want to find a softer way of saying something is bad. For example:

I like the writing style in your report, but the cover design leaves a lot to be desired. Can you please change it?

The service at Mario’s Steakhouse left a lot to be desired the last time I went there. Let’s go to another restaurant.

A: How was dinner at your girlfriend’s place last night? Was it good?

B: Well, let’s just say that her cooking skills leave a lot to be desired.

The reason this expression means something is bad is that when something is good, you don’t desire (or want) anything more from it; it’s perfect the way it is. If something is bad, you desire (or want) more from it in order to make it perfect. Because it’s a very indirect way of speaking, it’s considered much softer.

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