Archive for July 3, 2011

idiom: to not be set/written in stone

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This week’s idiom is to “not be set in stone”, but we also say to “not be written in stone”. We use these expressions when we want to talk about something which is not completely settled and therefore can be changed. For example:

A: Is it possible to change the schedule for the lesson?

B: Sure, we can change it. It’s not set in stone.

If you want to change the details of your contract now, you can. Nothing is written in stone yet.

A: I know you said to pay you back by Friday, but I won’t be able to do it until Monday. Is that ok?

B: Sure, that’s fine. It’s not set in stone. Just pay me back sometime next week.

It’s not written in stone or anything like that, but we’re not supposed to eat at our desks in the office.

The reason we use “stone” in this expression is that once something is carved into stone, it’s impossible to erase and therefore cannot be changed. However, it’s much easier to change something if it’s written in pencil or even in pen.

Please note that we always use this expression in the negative, so we CANNOT say, “It is written in stone.” That sounds strange, but it is possible to use it as a question. For example:

Is the schedule set in stone?

Is that written in stone?

I hope this is clear to everyone.

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