idiom: to be the last straw

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The idiom for this week is to be “the last straw”, and it is used when we talk about being in a bad situation which we have been tolerating for a while. Then something happens, and we can no longer tolerate this bad situation. We call that final bad thing “the last straw”. For example:

I’ve told you to be quiet at night because I’m trying to sleep! Now I’ve found out you broke some of my dishes! That’s the last straw! I want you to move out!

I had been unhappy in my job for a long time. Then my boss told me he was cutting my salary by 10% and that was the last straw for me. I quit my job the next day.

My friend Gloria was not happy in her marriage, but she tried to make it work. Later, she found out her husband cheated on her and that was the last straw. Now she’s divorcing him.

This expression comes from a longer expression in English: “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I suppose camels have been used for transporting straw. If you keep putting straw on a camel’s back, it will become heavier and heavier. Eventually, there will be one straw that will cause the camel to collapse. Therefore, the straw is the symbol for the last bad thing we can tolerate, and breaking the camel’s back is the symbol for finally changing the bad situation.

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2 Comments »

  1. Daniel Said:

    Hi Mike,

    You said in the text:

    “Then something happens, and we can no longer tolerate this bad situation”.

    How can I use the expression “can no” and what is the difference between “can not” or “cannot”?

    Thank you in advance,

    Daniel.

    • Hi Daniel.

      The expression is actually “no longer”; they always go together. We never write “can not” separately. It is always “cannot”.

      I hope that answers your question.

      Mike


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