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Is it common to say “ I’m on the fence about something “ ? If I’m not certain about something, can I say “ I’m on the fence about it “? Does it sound natural in daily conversations or is it an outdated way of expressing this idea ? Thanks a lot !
Nov 1, 2019 9:46 AM
Answers · 8
I don't think it sounds very natural. Most native speakers would probably say something more straightforward, such as "I'm not sure" or "I can't make up my mind", or even "I'm in two minds". If you were to say "I'm on the fence" in an everyday conversation, this might surprise the listener. If your pronunciation and/or intonation isn't perfect, they may well not understand you immediately. (It's worth bearing in mind that most language comprehension depends on what you EXPECT to hear). It would take us a second to decode what you said, and then another moment to recall that 'on the fence' is an idiom meaning reluctance to commit to a decision. If the context is inappropriate (as it often is when learners try to use idioms), it would take us even longer to work out what you were saying. Bear in mind, also, that younger English speakers may well not be aware of this idiom at all. Colourful idioms - such as 'It's raining cats and dogs' and 'It's not my cup of tea' - make a welcome break from focusing on dull grammar and vocabulary, for students and teachers alike. But that doesn't mean that the idioms are useful or appropriate. It is a myth that using idioms will improve your English or make it sound more advanced or 'native'. In fact, the opposite is the case - inaccurate and inappropriate attempts to use idiomatic language makes learners' English seem worse, not better. By all means, study idioms and keep them in your passive knowledge. But, as a general rule, learners of English would do well to avoid using them unless (a) their English is advanced and (b) they have actually heard native speakers use these idioms in the appropriate real-life situations.
November 1, 2019
Yes, it is a common expression in the United States. As always, I think foreign speakers should treat idioms as passive vocabulary--know what they mean, don't try to use them yourself. They don't add anything. If you say them with even a slight accent, or the wrong rhythm or intonation, they confuse listeners. The clear, straightforward way to express the same idea is to say "I'm undecided" or "I'm dithering." I like old songs. Not too many people will know this one, but it does use the phrase "sitting on the fence." And this song, and the singer, Ella Fitzgerald are "as American as apple pie." https://youtu.be/mpnDbJjBW8A?t=60 First, you say you do, And then you don't; And then you say you will, And then you won't; You're undecided now-- So what are you gonna do? Now you want to play, And then it's no, And when you say you'll stay, That's when you go; You're undecided now-- So what are you gonna do? I've been sitting on a fence, And it doesn't make much sense, 'Cause you keep me in suspense And you know it; Then you promise to return, When you don't, I really burn, Well, I guess, I'll never learn, And I show it. If you've got a heart, And if you're kind, Then don't keep us apart, Make up your mind, You're undecided now-- So what are you gonna do?
November 2, 2019
Yes. It means someone who has not made a decision. Example: "I am on the fence about whether to buy a new car." It can also mean that someone is not loyal. Example: "I thought he supported me, but he always sits on the fence."
November 1, 2019
Hiya Apple, This is definitely an expression we use in Scotland, although I don't know if it's used in the rest of the UK. You could say something like 'I'm not sure, I'm a bit on the fence', or 'I'm a still a bit on the fence to be honest' (if someone asks you if you've made up your mind about something). Hope that helps!
November 1, 2019
I agree this is very common American English. It’s good to know it’s not in the UK. If someone wants to go out on the town but also wants to stay in and relax it would be very common to say “I don’t know, I’m on the fence.” Or “I don’t know, I’m on the fence about going out tonight.” depending on whether they wanted to be specific or the topic was already clear.
November 1, 2019
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Apple
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English
Learning Language
English