Think long and hard; the language of decisions

by Liz Walter​
One of the best ways (perhaps the best way) to improve your English is to learn how words go together in phrases, idioms, or other patterns such as verb/noun or adjective/noun pairs (often called ‘collocations’).

This blog looks at some useful phrases and collocations connected with the subject of decisions, something we often discuss.

Firstly, make is the verb most often used with decision, but we often say that we reach or come to a decision too, especially when we need to put a lot of thought into it (= think about it carefully).

If we have a difficult/tough decision to make, we will want to take time to consider the pros and cons/advantages and disadvantages of the possible choices (= the good and bad things about them). We will weigh them up (= decide which are most important) carefully. When there is more than one thing we could do in a situation, we have to consider our options.

If we mull something over, we take time to think about it calmly and carefully. When it comes to a particularly difficult decision, people often want to stress how seriously they have thought about it. They may say that they have thought long and hard about it or that they did not take the decision lightly.

We use phrases such as bear something in mind and take something into consideration to talk about how we think about a particular fact when we are making up our mind (= deciding).

If you are torn between; two options, you find it very difficult to decide which one to choose. You might decide to seek (= try to get) advice or do some research in order to help you make an informed decision (= with all the facts you need). You might also decide to talk it over with someone else, to see what they think.

If you toy with the idea of doing something, you consider it, but not very seriously, and if you have second thoughts about something, you realize that you are not happy with a decision, and may decide to change it.

This may be because you made a hasty decision (= decided too quickly). A snap decision is also a very fast decision, but is usually used in a more positive way to describe something you decide very suddenly.

Finally, if you do not agree with a decision – and if you have the power! – you can overturn or reverse it (= change things to the way they were before).

24 thoughts on “Think long and hard; the language of decisions

  1. An excellent repertory of decisive words. I would add a footnote: If you make an unwise decision, like buying a product you did not like, you might experience “Buyer’s remorse.” This has become a common phrase for the regret people feel when they understand that they have made a bad decision.

  2. ANNA stb

    Very interesting and useful as well. A great motivation for spending constructively some time considering in depth the richness of options and expressions of the English language.

  3. Dhahawi Garri

    We can also think of someone who ‘takes a decision’ if we want to imply that such a person is a dictator.

  4. Kyle Lenovo

    An interesting subject indeed. Heard on the radio today : Everybody can’t wait for its arrival.” Perfectly clear to native speakers, but somehow “wrong”. Mind you, the corollary ” Nobody can wait for its arrival.” seems to imply that they’ve definitely all gone home!

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  7. Marisela

    Looking at the expre snap decision this is the meaning given by cambridge dictionary: done suddenly without allowing time for careful thought or preparation:
    He always makes snap decisions and never thinks about their consequences.

    But, it seems like being a synonym of hasty decision, I don’t understand what is the real difference then.

    1. Liz Walter

      They are very similar, Marisela, but ‘snap decision’ is more positive. We tend to say ‘hasty decision’ in order to imply that someone didn’t think about it enough and probably made the wrong choice.

  8. Mohand

    Thank you teacher Liz, perfectly clear for me as advanced in written English but it’s always good to be reminded of the meaning of idiomatic expressions and other collocations in context and your examples are very accurate!

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