Archive for June 16, 2011

grammatical expression: to be a toss-up between…

The grammatical expression for today is to be “a toss-up between” two options. English native speakers use this when we can’t make a choice between two things, people or places. For example:

A: What’s your favorite food?

B: It’s a toss-up between sushi and lasagna. I love them both!


A: What’s the best country you’ve ever been to?

B: It’s a toss-up between Italy and Turkey. They were both so interesting. I can’t choose between them.


A: Who do you think was the world’s most evil dictator?

B: Many people think Hitler was the worst but for me, it’s a toss-up between Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. Both of them were far worse than Hitler.

My wife and I are trying to decide where to go on our next vacation, but we haven’t made a final decision yet. Right now, it’s a toss-up between France and Spain.

I believe this expression comes from the habit Western people have of tossing a coin in order to make a choice between two things. If the coin is “heads” (the front side), we choose the first option; if the coin is “tails” (the back side), we choose the second option. So, in these cases, it’s like we’re saying I have to toss a coin in order to choose between them because they’re both equal in my opinion.

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