Archive for February 6, 2011

idiom: to be (still) up in the air


Today is Sunday, so that means it’s time for another idiom. The one I’ve chosen for today is it’s “up in the air”. Often, with this expression, we use the word “still” before the word “up”. We use it when we want to say that something is still not decided and that we are still waiting to receive someone’s decision about a situation or that we’re waiting for more information that will allow us to make a decision about something. For example:

I don’t know how much my salary will be at my new job. It’s up in the air right now because we’re still negotiating my contract.

A: When will the office Christmas party be held this year?

B: It’s still up in the air. The boss is still trying to decide on a date.


A: How many people will be attending the conference?

B: I haven’t heard back from everyone yet, so it’s still up in the air.


A: Which university will you be going to in the fall?

B: It’s still up in the air. I haven’t heard back from all of the schools yet.

We don’t use this expression when we have the power to make the decision ourselves. Therefore, for example, if it’s up to us to choose a school to attend in the fall and we haven’t chosen one yet, we would NOT say “it’s still up in the air.” Instead, we would say “I haven’t decided yet.” or “I haven’t made up my mind yet.” By using “It’s still up in the air” we are saying that we have to wait for more information or for another person’s decision.

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